Luxembourg has so far not implemented travel restrictions for arrivals from China Library photo: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne

Luxembourg has so far not implemented travel restrictions for arrivals from China Library photo: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne

With Sweden trying to organise EU consensus on whether to test arrivals from China for covid-19, Luxembourg’s health ministry said the situation would be “closely assessed” following a Wednesday meeting.

Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU council and has called an Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) meeting of health officials for 4 January to seek “a common EU approach to the possible introduction of entry requirements.” Talks in December had failed to yield a coordinated response.

France on 1 January began carrying out random PCR tests upon arrival and requires travellers from China to provide a negative result no older than 48 hours before departure. Italy, too, has mandated swabbing and sequencing for all arrivals from China, with Spain requiring a negative PCR test or a full vaccination schedule.

Belgium on the other hand said it would test wastewater from planes for new variants of the virus, which are feared could lead to a resurge in Europe amid the covid-19 outbreak in China that has followed its zero-covid policy.

No direct flights

Luxembourg virologist Claude Muller in an interview with Virgule published on Tuesday said travellers from China should be tested with results sequenced for variants, although he acknowledged that it would be difficult for authorities in the grand duchy to implement such a policy as it has no direct passenger connections with China.

“Travellers from China are not subject to mandatory testing when entering Luxembourg, especially as there are no direct passenger flights from China to Luxembourg,” the health ministry told Delano in an email, adding that it was following guidance from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

“Nevertheless, the situation will be closely assessed again after the meeting of the European IPCR,” the spokesperson said.

There are commercial connections to mainland China by Luxembourg cargo airline Cargolux, which flies to Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen and Zhengzhou. The grand duchy had mandated tests and quarantine for travellers from India, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini during earlier stages of the pandemic, even though it shares no direct flights with those countries. Travellers were required to register with authorities upon arrival in Luxembourg and get tested regardless of their transit.

Vaccine offer rejected

The EU has offered free vaccines to China, which the country’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said it does not need. The World Health Organization in December had said that China’s vaccination rate is insufficient to stem the current outbreak although it acknowledged a significant uptick in vaccinations since China lifted some covid-19 restrictions.

China has rejected the travel restrictions imposed by around a dozen countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Japan and South Korea. The country has stopped publishing data on its infection rates. Leaked notes by health officials suggest 250m people had been infected across China in the first 20 days of December.

Health risk analysis firm Airfinity has estimated 11,000 deaths and 1.8 million infections per day, with a total of 1.7 million fatalities by the end of April.