Ben Wallace: UK approach to China travel ‘under review’ amid Covid concerns
The possibility of the UK introducing restrictions for travellers from China is “under review”, as the nation prepares to open up overseas travel, the UK defence secretary has said.
China has announced plans to ditch its Covid-zero policy and will reopen its borders in January.
The US will require all arrivals from China to provide a negative Covid test result, taken no more than two days before travelling, from 5 January.
However, a UK government spokesperson has previously said there are no plans to introduce compulsory tests for arrivals to the UK.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace said the government was “looking at” considering introducing restrictions for arrivals from China, amid fears re-opening the borders could cause a surge in Covid infections.
Wallace added: “It’s under review, we noticed obviously what the United States has done and India and I think Italy has looked at it.
“We keep under review all the time, obviously, health threats to the United Kingdom, wherever they may be.”
“I think the Department of Transport will take medical advice, talk to the Department of Health and they’ll come to some decisions depending on what we see coming out of China, but at the moment it’s under review.”
Countries to announce travel restrictions include the US, India, Italy, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan.
The defence minister’s comments follow a government spokesperson previously stating that there were “no plans to reintroduce COVID-19 testing or additional requirements for arrivals into the UK.”
However, the government said the UK Health Security Agency would continue to keep an eye on the prevalence and spread of harmful variants of Covid-19 and keep international statistics under review.
Concerns are amping up in the lead up to the Lunar New Year holiday next month, which will see millions of people travelling to spend time with loved ones.
Lord Bethell, who was a minister in the department for health during the Covid lockdowns, was one of the high-profile Conservative politicians to urge a review of the current UK policy.
He said the Italian approach was “a sensible thing to do and something the British government should be seriously looking at,” speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“What the Italians are doing is post-flight surveillance of arrivals in Italy in order to understand whether there are any emerging variants and … the impact of the virus on the Italian health system,” he said.
He added: “You’ve got to appreciate that a lot of people who get on these flights, we know from experience, will be people who are poorly themselves and are coming to the West for medical help.”
“That is quite a daunting prospect for our healthcare system and it’s important that we know which of them have got the virus and what kind of virus they’ve got.”