Italy has imposed new Covid-19 testing restrictions on travelers from China, where infections are rising and hospitals are struggling to cope.
Milan’s main airport, Malpensa, had already begun testing passengers arriving from Beijing and Shanghai, and one day’s worth of results showed almost one in two passengers was infected. “The measure is essential to guarantee the surveillance and detection of possible variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population,” Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said, announcing mandatory tests for all passengers.
On the first flight to Malpensa that tested passengers from China on December 26, 35 of 62 passengers tested positive for covid, while 62 of 120 tested positive on the second, Lombardy’s health chief Guido Bertolaso said.
The minister did not say what measures would be imposed on travelers who test positive, but local health chiefs in the Lombardy region around Milan and the Lazio region around Rome said they would have to quarantine in reserved buildings. by local health authorities.
Many of China’s South Asian neighbors — Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, and India — are stepping up security protocols for Chinese travelers, requiring them to present negative Covid tests upon arrival. Philippine officials said the country should be “very cautious” when receiving travelers from China.
The United States is also seeking to impose new covid measures on Chinese travelers coming from Beijing amid concerns about the accuracy of data on the infection rate in China.
Several ICU facilities in hot-spot provinces in China are being overwhelmed by large numbers of cases. Health workers at the Huaxi hospital in the city of Chengdu said they have been very busy taking care of infected patients.
“I’ve been doing this job for 30 years and this is the busiest I’ve ever known,” an ambulance driver outside the hospital told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“Almost all the patients have covid,” said an emergency department pharmacy staffer.
Beijing authorities reported three new covid-related deaths on Tuesday, up from one on Monday, an increase that appears inconsistent with the situation at most funeral homes. Images on social media have shown corpses packed in body bags and piled up in morgues.
Xi Jinping’s administration suddenly reversed its “zero-Covid” policy in recent weeks, and the speed of the move has affected a fragile health system. Most of the patients have included the elderly and critically ill people with underlying diseases, said Zhang Yuhua, an official at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital. The number of patients receiving emergency care has shot up nearly fivefold from about 100 before restrictions began to ease to at least 450-500 a day now, he said.
Wang Wenbin, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, accused Western countries of “exaggerating” and “distorting China’s Covid policy adjustments.”
He said China believed that all countries’ Covid responses should be “science-based and proportionate,” and “should not affect normal people-to-people exchange.” Wang called for “joint efforts to ensure safe cross-border travel, maintain the stability of global industrial supply chains, and promote economic recovery and growth.”
China is currently on track for a full reopening of its economy next year, and will remove the requirement for incoming travelers to take Covid PCR tests from January 8, 2023, customs authorities said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong will cancel its Covid rules from Thursday, city leader John Lee said, meaning arriving people will no longer need to take mandatory PCR tests, while the vaccine pass from the city would also be removed. Although the use of masks will still be mandatory, Lee said.
“The city has achieved a relatively high vaccination rate which builds an anti-epidemic barrier…Hong Kong has a sufficient quantity of medicines to fight COVID-19, and health workers have gained rich experience in dealing with the pandemic,” he added. .
Lee said his government aims to reopen the borders with mainland China by January 15 and was working with border authorities to ensure an orderly reopening.