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EU countries are moving towards coordinated travel measures in response to China’s COVID surge, including pre-departure testing, masks on flights and testing of sewage for possible new variants.
The urge for a joint answer comes later several EU countries had already introduced their own measures to contain COVID rates from China and monitor new variants, despite vows to improve collaboration during the first wave of the pandemic.
Officials drew closer to a health security meeting Tuesday of national ministers and representatives of the European Commission, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization consensus on pre-departure testing for travelers from China, stepping up sewage monitoring of flights and strengthening domestic surveillance of the virus, tweeted EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
Members “converged” on these measures, she said, adding: “The discussion will continue tomorrow [the integrated political crisis response (IPCR) mechanism meeting].”
A Commission spokesman told POLITICO that the Commission had presented a draft opinion on proposed measures for EU capitals, which is now being “revised and adopted” based on their input.
“The vast majority of countries are in favor of pre-departure testing,” the spokesman said, adding that such testing “needs to be targeted to the most appropriate flights and airports and carried out in a coordinated manner to ensure their effectiveness.”
The draft opinion also includes mask wearing on flights from China, personal hygiene for travelers and increased EU vigilance on testing and vaccination. It includes genomic surveillance at airports to detect new variants, such as B. Toilet water testing, as well as increased monitoring and sequencing. All of these measures will be taken into account by the EU Crisis Response Panel at its meeting on Wednesday.
Many countries in Europe have taken sewage samples during the pandemic to identify outbreaks of COVID, but also to genetically sequence samples to monitor for new variants.
Belgium became the first country to announce this week that it is testing wastewater samples from two flights a week out of China and sequencing them for variants.
Countries including the UK have said there is a lack of comprehensive health information shared by China, making it difficult to tell if new variants are emerging in the country.