EU’s refusal to impose restraints amid China’s COVID surge is ‘big gamble’: expert

When Milan began testing arrivals from China for COVID amid an explosive virus outbreak, it found that about half of travelers on two flights had the virus.

This will force Italy, the first European country to hit the pandemic in 2020, to impose mandatory COVID tests on all passengers from China, sequencing the tests in Milan to a possible new variant. was screened.

But Italy hit a wall when trying to pressure the European Union (EU) to follow its approach.

The 27-nation bloc could not agree on a course of action when they met on Thursday morning, but pledged to continue discussions toward common action.

Brigitte Autran, head of the French health risk assessment committee COVARS, said:

This view is shared by other countries such as Germany, Portugal and the UK, with Austria highlighting the economic benefits of the imminent return of Chinese tourists. country borders.

“Right now, hundreds of thousands of people in Norway may be infected with COVID every week,” wrote Professor Preben Arvitzland of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health on Twitter. “Hundreds of additional cases among travelers from China will be a drop in the ocean.”

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni urged other EU member states to take action at a press conference.

Mandatory COVID tests are “only valid if done at European level,” Meloni said, noting that many visitors from China arrive in Italy on connecting flights via other European countries. Did.

lack of transparency

China’s official data and suspicions about the scale of the outbreak have prompted neighboring countries such as Japan, India, South Korea and Taiwan to adopt COVID testing requirements for travelers from the country. The US followed suit on Wednesday.

“There is growing concern in the international community about the ongoing COVID-19 surge in China and the lack of transparent data, including genome sequence data for the virus reported from China,” the week referring to the People’s Republic of China.

virus outbreak china
A masked traveler arrives at an international check-in counter at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on December 29, 2022. (Andy Wong/AP Photo)

Without such data, “it is becoming increasingly difficult for public health officials to identify potential new subspecies and be able to take rapid action to reduce their spread.”

In the face of international criticism, Chinese health officials said on Thursday that despite the official death toll of 11 flies being negligible in the face of rising reports by funeral home workers and medical institutions, the death toll has risen. High-fatality officials across the country continued to insist the administration was transparent and following international standards for reporting COVID deaths.

According to memos leaked online, China’s top health authority estimates that about 250 million residents contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December.

“Huge Bet”

According to virologist Sean Lin, former director of the Walter Reed Army Research Institute of Virology Division, the problem with the EU system is that multinational institutions make quick decisions, even when urgent action is required. is not possible.

Last weekend, China announced it would open its borders from 8 January, helping to rebound tourists that have halted most travel for the past three years. After living all the time under a strict zero-COVID policy, with this evolving situation the policy could change at any moment, many Chinese are using this limited time window to rush away. ‘ he said.

“We will be facing a massive influx of Chinese in a short period of time,” Lin told The Epoch Times.

Screening arrivals from China for COVID infections should be the minimum policy adopted by countries around the world, Lin said.

Germany’s Ministry of Health spokesman Sebastian Gerde said it was monitoring the situation but “had no indication that a more dangerous variant had been developed in this outbreak in China.” Lynn described the remark as “just stupid”.

virus outbreak china
Masked travelers with luggage line up at an international check-in counter at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, December 29, 2022. (Andy Wong/AP Photo)

“It’s a big gamble,” he said. “In this situation, you still trust the Communist Party.”

“The Chinese government is playing word games with the whole world, and its zero-COVID policy over the last couple of years goes against science itself.”

He pointed to severe pulmonary symptoms that have emerged in China’s COVID wave, not elsewhere, and that the virus in circulation is not the regular Omicron virus that Chinese officials have claimed. indicates that it is possible.

Italian Prime Minister Meloni said on Thursday that authorities had sequenced half of the samples from visitors from China and all showed the Omicron strain.

“This is very reassuring,” she said at a press conference on Thursday. “The situation in Italy is under control and there are no immediate concerns.”

But Lin is far from optimistic.

The current situation with the reopening of borders with China is that Beijing locked down Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, but allowed people to move freely to other parts of the world, bringing the virus with them in 2020. similar to the beginning.

Reopening borders would allow the virus, which may have mutated, to spread freely around the world, which Lynn described as “causing the whole world to wreak havoc.”

“I think this could be even worse than 2020.”

Eva Who
Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times, focusing on US politics, US-China relations, religious freedom, and human rights. Please contact Eva at [email protected]