Transport secretary: Covid-positive China arrivals will not have to isolate
Transport secretary Mark Harper has confirmed the UK will not require Covid-positive arrivals from China to quarantine despite mounting calls from the Health Security Agency to identify and test cases.
The transport secretary told LBC today that travellers from China will not be forced to isolate and said the policy to test arrivals was put in place to collect “information for surveillance purposes”.
Health secretary Steve Barclay announced late last week that all arrivals to England from China will need to show a negative pre-departure Covid test from Thursday.
The precautionary measure was introduced as Beijing started to reissue passports and visas for overseas trips after scrapping its zero-Covid policy last month.
This has led to a surge in cases in China, but numbers remain unclear due to the Chinese government’s notorious secrecy.
“The policy for arrivals from China is primarily about collecting information that the Chinese government is not sharing with the international community,” the minister said.
Harper’s comments come as the Health Security Agency (UKHSA) calls on the government to identify Covid cases in Britain linked to travel from China by using genetic testing to look for new variants.
National medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis wrote that by testing Covid-hospitalised cases arriving from China the UK government will be able to “undertake enhanced surveillance on the variants circulating in China”.
The UK is not the only country to increase its surveillance of Chinese arrivals following the end of restrictions in China.
Australia has become the latest country to adhere to the new testing regime, following in the footsteps of the US and Britain.
EU countries are currently working towards a coordinated approach to travel restrictions, with health officials from the bloc meeting on Wednesday.
This was announced after member states such as Italy, Spain and France introduced tougher measures, such as mandatory quarantine for those who test positive for the virus.
Italy, the first country to test passengers coming from China, has not yet identified a new Covid variant.
Beijing has spoken out against testing requirements imposed on Chinese travellers and threatened to introduce counter-measures.
“We believe that the entry restrictions adopted by some countries targeting China lack scientific basis, and some excessive practices are even more unacceptable,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.
“We are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the Covid measures for political purposes and will take counter-measures based on the principle of reciprocity.”