China threatens response to ‘unacceptable’ Covid measures imposed on travelers

Sweden’s Public Health Agency said Tuesday that it had urged the government to require travelers from China to present a recent negative Covid-19 test.

The statement from the agency comes as Sweden, which has taken over EU’s rotating presidency, has called a meeting of the E.U.’s crisis management mechanism for Wednesday in Brussels, where travel restrictions will be discussed with the aim of agreeing on a common line.

The Swedish government “is preparing to be able to introduce travel restrictions. At the same time, we are conducting a dialogue with our European colleagues to get the same rules as possible in the E.U.,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer said in a statement.

Chinese health officials said last week that they had submitted data to GISAID, a global platform for sharing coronavirus data.

The versions of the virus fueling infections in China “closely resemble” those that have been seen in different parts of the world between July and December, GISAID said Monday.

Dr. Gagandeep Kang, who studies viruses in the Christian Medical College of Vellore in India, said that the information from China, albeit limited, seemed to suggest that “the pattern was holding” and that there wasn’t any sign of a worrisome variant emerging.

Mao, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said that health authorities had recently held a video conference with the WHO to exchange views on the current Covid situation, medical treatment, vaccination and other technical issues, and agreed to continue technical exchanges to help end the pandemic as soon as possible.

A senior Hong Kong official also criticized the steps taken by some other countries. Some countries have applied the requirements to passengers from Hong Kong and Macao, both semiautonomous Chinese territories, as well as mainland China.

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Eric Chan said in a Facebook post that the government had written to various consulates on Monday to express its concerns over the “unnecessary and inappropriate” rules.

Some Canadian experts have questioned the effectiveness of the testing. Kerry Bowman, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, said that people can test positive long after entering the country.

The requirement is “not based on science at this point,” he said after Canada announced measures last weekend.

China, which for most of the pandemic adopted a “zero-Covid” strategy that imposed harsh restrictions aimed at stamping out the virus, abruptly eased those measures in December.

Chinese authorities previously said that from Jan. 8, overseas travelers would no longer need to quarantine upon arriving in China, paving the way for Chinese residents to travel.

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