"Overwhelming majority" of EU's 27 member countries want passengers coming from China to be systematically tested for Covid before departure, European Commission says.

European Union fears a sudden influx of passengers from China could bring Covid variants that may be able to evade current vaccines.
European Union fears a sudden influx of passengers from China could bring Covid variants that may be able to evade current vaccines. (AP Archive)

Most European Union countries favour introducing pre-departure Covid testing for travellers from China, the European Commission has said, as Beijing plans to lift travel restrictions on its citizens despite a wave of Covid infections.

The common EU approach emerged after a meeting on Tuesday of the Health Security Committee, an EU advisory body of national health experts from the EU-s 27 countries and chaired by the Commission.

"The overwhelming majority of countries are in favour of pre-departure testing," a Commission spokesperson said.

"These measures would need to be targeted at the most appropriate flights and airports and carried out in a coordinated way to ensure their effectiveness," he said.

The Commission on Tuesday prepared a draft proposal for the talks, which included a recommendation for mask-wearing on flights from China, wastewater monitoring for aircraft arriving from China, genomic surveillance at airports and increased monitoring and sequencing and increased EU vigilance on testing and vaccination.

"This will now be revised and adopted based on the input of (EU) Member States," the Commission spokesperson said, adding more talks on the measures would take place at another meeting of EU health officials on Wednesday afternoon.

The spokesperson said all EU countries agreed they needed a coordinated approach to the changing situation in China and to deal with the implications of increased travel from China to Europe after China lifts its stringent pandemic policies on January 8.

READ MORE: Beijing criticises Covid curbs on Chinese travellers, warns countermeasures

China threatens countermeasures

China insisted the situation was "under control" and medical provisions were in "adequate supply," government spokesperson Mao Ning said.

As the 27-nation bloc moved closer to imposing some sort of restrictions on travellers from China, Beijing threatened countermeasures.

"We are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the Covid measures for political purposes and will take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity," Mao said.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said last week it did not currently recommend measures on travellers from China.

It said the variants circulating in China were already in the European Union, that EU citizens had relatively high vaccination levels and the potential for imported infections was low compared to daily infections in the EU, with healthcare systems currently coping.

Other scientists have also said limits on travel would have little impact on containing the disease, but they also insisted on the value of looking for potential variants not in Europe at the moment.

READ MORE: France test Chinese arrivals to track variants

Source: TRTWorld and agencies