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Covid tests for China travellers to England ending

March 20, 2023 ChinaEurope Events & Announcements

Travellers flying into England from mainland China will no longer have to provide proof of a negative pre-departure test from next month.

The change will come into effect on 5 April – exactly three months after the measures started.

Ministers brought in controls after a spike in cases following Beijing’s relaxation of its zero-Covid policy.

Their removal comes after greater transparency from China, the government said.

In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that there has been increased information on “testing, vaccination and genomic sequencing results” on China’s domestic disease levels.

The data indicates that Covid variants seen in China “continue to be the same as those already circulating in the UK”, it added.

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also reported that all regions had passed their infection peak, the statement reported.

The DHSC also announced that the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) voluntary on-arrival testing programme of travellers from China to Heathrow airport has come to an end.

The temporary testing programme was implemented in January. The government said its aim was to improve Covid surveillance of travellers arriving at London’s main airport from China by helping to detect potential new variants.

The government said an average of 99 people per flight had been tested, totalling 3,374 passengers.

During that period, 14 positive cases were identified, but none was deemed to be a variant of concern.

The DHSC said from Friday, 17 March “passengers aged 18 or over travelling from mainland China and arriving at Heathrow Airport will no longer be invited to take a voluntary test on arrival”.

“The ending of this enhanced surveillance is in line with international partners such as the EU who are reducing border measures to monitor new variants from China” .

Officials said the government would maintain a range of contingency measures to “enable detection, and swift and proportionate action, for potential new harmful variants” should the need arise.

Last December, ministers confirmed that passengers arriving to England from China would have to provide a negative Covid test before they boarded their flights.

The Chinese government was reporting about 5,000 cases a day at the time, but analysts said the numbers were vastly undercounted – and that the daily caseload could have been closer to one million.

Other countries around the world such as the US, France India also implemented testing.

While the decision only affected English airports, the government said that despite their being no direct flights from China to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, that it was working with the devolved administrations to ensure the policy was applied UK-wide.

In January, China reopened its borders to international visitors for the first time since it imposed travel restrictions in March 2020 while officials declared later that month that the country’s current wave of Covid-19 infections was “coming to an end”.

China’s National Health Commission stopped publishing data on Covid cases and deaths on 25 December after the relaxation of its zero-Covid policy and in February declared a “decisive victory” over the pandemic.

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