Member states of the European Union are trying to find a joint stance on how to treat travelers entering the borderless Schengen area from China after Italy urged the rest of the economic bloc to bring back anti-Covid checks in response to Beijing’s rapid rollback of its previously stringent hygiene restrictions. In recent days more than 50% of passengers from China at Milan’s Malpensa airport have tested positive for the virus, and on Wednesday Italy brought back mandatory coronavirus tests for everyone arriving from China, after reports of rising infection rates in the world’s most populous country.
However, on Thursday Italy’s far-right premier, Giorgia Meloni, said no news concerning Covid-19 mutations had been found among those arriving so far, with about half the samples sequenced. Meloni argued that requiring Covid tests for all passengers from China was “only effective if it is taken at the European level”, noting that many people arrive in Italy on connecting flights through other European countries. Meloni’s deputy and transport minister, Matteo Salvini, tweeted that “Italy cannot be the only country to carry out anti-Covid checks at airports for those arriving from China”, urging such measures to be applied “throughout Europe”.Officials in Berlin, Paris, and Brussels were more cautious about sounding the alarm over the latest developments in China.
“We are watching the situation in China with great care,” a spokesperson for the German health ministry said on Wednesday. The European Commission said Thursday that BF.7 Omicron variants are already active in Europe and that the threat has not increased significantly. “However, we remain vigilant and stand ready to apply the emergency brakes if necessary,” an EU official said in a statement.