Malta is unlikely to call for urgent action at Europe’s border to restrict the inflow of travellers from China who might be infected with COVID-19, with a Government spokesperson making it clear that the country will follow any advice coming from European institutions.
The number of Chinese travellers coming to Malta is relatively low both in comparison to those visiting other European countries and in terms of their total market share in Malta.
Malta has no direct connections to China, meaning that anyone coming from China will most likely enter the European Union’s borders – and be subject to the relevant checks – in another Schengen country.
However, this does not take into account those transiting through the key transit hubs of Dubai and Istanbul, both in countries which to date have no restrictions on arrivals from China.
“Malta is assessing the situation and is in direct communication with the European Commission and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) for any actions which need to be taken,” the Government spokesperson told Times of Malta.
“At present, the European Health Security Council is not yet recommending compulsory testing for travellers from China,” they said.
Two days prior, the ECDC said it did not currently believe the surge in cases in China would impact the situation in the EU “given higher population immunity in the EU/EEA, as well as the prior emergence and subsequent replacement of variants currently circulating in China”.
The EU’s health watchdog therefore considered “screenings and travel measures on travellers from China unjustified”.
On Wednesday (tomorrow), EU members state officials will hold an Integrated Political Crisis Response meeting to determine whether the bloc should put in place entry requirements for travellers from China.
Rotating EU presidency holder Sweden’s Minister of Health Jakob Forssmed said: “It is important that we get the necessary measures in place quickly.”
Several European nations have already put in place certain limits, including France, Italy and Spain. However, these measures were not coordinated, resulting in different rules around the continent.
The United States also moved swiftly to contain the threat, with a new testing regime for all travellers from China taking effect on Wednesday.
Several other countries have done the same, including the UK, Japan, India, South Korea and Taiwan.
Morocco has meanwhile restricted entry for all travellers from China, regardless of their vaccination status or test result.
China has responded negatively to such measures, describing them as “unacceptable”.
“We firmly oppose attempts to manipulate COVID-19 prevention and control measures to achieve political goals, and China will take corresponding measures based on the principle of reciprocity in different situations,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning, although she did not single out any particular offenders.
She added that China was ready to “strengthen communication with the international community and work together to defeat Covid.”
The key fear of many countries is the emergence of a new strain of the virus as it runs rampant in the country of 1.4 billion people following wave after wave of lockdowns that left many vulnerable to infection.
However, no such new strains have yet been reported, neither in China itself nor in countries where travellers from China arrived carrying the virus.
The country’s hardline stance was rolled back last month after significant mass protests forced a change of approach from a Government typically seen as authoritarian.
With Chinese citizens finally able to travel more freely, many made plans to visit other countries – only to now find that not every country is quite so happy to receive likely carriers of a virus.
Compounding the issue is that official figures released by the Chinese Government are viewed with skepticism, with Beijing itself admitting that it has become impossible” to track infections following the end of mandatory testing last month.
China’s National Health Commission has also stopped publishing daily nationwide infection and death statistics.
Officially, only 15 people have died with COVID-19 since December 7th, but reports of overwhelmed hospitals and mortuaries undermine the relevance of such figures.
In Zhejiang, a coastal province, authorities have reported a surge in the number of new infections, with two cities estimating that at least 30 per cent of the population had contracted
In Qingdao, on the east coast, around 500,000 new daily cases are being forecast, while in Dongguan, in the south, daily infections could number around 300,000.
However, in the major cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Chengdu, officials estimate that over half the population has already been infected, with the worst expected to be largely over.
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