Travellers from China arrive in Europe as COVID tests begin on wastewater

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By Efi Koutsokosta
Passangers arriving from China are tested for COVID-19 on arrival at Milan Malpensa Airport, Milan, Italy, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. (Alessandro Bremec/LaPresse via AP)
Passangers arriving from China are tested for COVID-19 on arrival at Milan Malpensa Airport, Milan, Italy, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. (Alessandro Bremec/LaPresse via AP)   -   Copyright  Alessandro Bremec/LaPresse via AP

Travellers from China began arriving on European shores for the first time in three years since the pandemic began, but fears of an increase in COVID-19 cases mean many European countries require a negative test upon arrival.

Tests are also being carried out on wastewater from planes coming from China to determine both levels of the virus in passengers and any possible new variants.

Last week, Brussels recommended a negative test 48 hours before arrival be produced, but the recommendation is non-mandatory.

According to the European Commission, Austria, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden and Spain all require a pre-departure test. Bulgaria, on the other hand, does not.

In Belgium, it is required for all people arriving from China, but it is not discouraging travellers, as one person explained to Euronews.

"I was surprised. I thought this is over. I mean corona, the whole covid [thing] I think is past and now it's just like reliving the past three years again."

"It's not that difficult actually. I just got a negative covid test done and there you go," another traveller said.

One person told Euronews that people were waiting in front of the plane door, checking everyone's COVID test results.

Marco from Belgium hadn't seen his wife for four months after she was stuck in China visiting her parents. 

She told Euronews that the return to normality is welcome, even if she’s worried that the pandemic is still not fully over.

"I think that it's an inevitable step to take after almost three years of very strict lockdown policies," she said.

"We will see what will happen because the Chinese New Year is coming and there will be huge migration in the country, so there will be another wave of infections. We don't know. We'll see."

The first batch of tests from arrivals in Belgium from China showed traces of COVID in the wastewater, but they were unable to determine if any new variants were present.