In view of the massive wave of corona infections in China, the Chairman of the Board of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has spoken out in favor of a Europe-wide PCR test requirement for all travelers from the People’s Republic.
“We don’t know what’s happening in China right now. The infections run completely uncontrolled. I therefore think it makes sense to make a PCR test mandatory upon entry,” he told the Rheinische Post. The Federal Association of Doctors in the Public Health Service had previously advocated a uniform obligation to carry out rapid tests in the European Union.
EU spokesman: “Coordinated action”
Several European countries have already issued entry restrictions or have promised to do so, including France, Italy and Spain. The EU had not yet decided on a common line during consultations on the corona situation in China last Thursday.
Yesterday, after a meeting of representatives of national health ministries, a spokesman for the European Commission said: “The overwhelming majority of countries are in favor of pre-departure tests.” In principle, a “coordinated approach” was agreed. The discussion is to be continued today at a meeting of the EU states at expert level.
Montgomery also called for sequencing of those who tested positive in order to be able to identify corona variants that had not yet been registered in Germany. “It cannot be ruled out that new variants from China will find their way to Germany. We should be prepared for the worst case and practice prevention.”
“Tests would not identify every infected person”
The epidemiologist Klaus Stöhr does not consider testing travelers from the People’s Republic to be effective in preventing the spread of new virus variants. “The monitoring is not such a bad idea, it is certainly scientifically interesting, but in practice you would have to see how this variant behaves in the population,” said the former head of the World Health Organization (WHO) influenza program on Deutschlandfunk.
It is about which properties have changed in addition to the genetic ones, whether other age groups are also affected or whether the immune protection is undermined. “All of this takes a certain amount of time and then the variant has already slipped through. Even testing can’t prevent that,” said Stöhr. The tests would not identify every infected person.
Airline association criticizes Covid test requirements
The airline association IATA criticizes the fact that several countries require negative Covid tests from travelers from China. “It is very disappointing to see that measures that have proven ineffective over the past three years are being reflexively reintroduced,” said IATA chief Willie Walsh at IATA headquarters in Geneva.
According to scientific studies, such measures could delay the spread of coronavirus variants by a few days at most. Instead, they hurt the economy and destroyed jobs. “We have the tools to deal with Covid-19 without resorting to ineffective measures,” Walsh said. The association includes around 300 airlines, which together handle a good 80 percent of global air traffic.
After almost three years of lockdowns, mass testing and forced quarantine, China abruptly announced an end to its zero-Covid policy on December 7th. The most populous country is currently experiencing a huge corona wave, which particularly affects people who are old or have previous illnesses. Hospitals are overwhelmed, crematoria can’t cremate the corpses fast enough. It is estimated that tens of thousands may have died. China no longer publishes figures on the infection situation.
© dpa-infocom, dpa:230104-99-95316/8