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20 May, 2024
 
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Cyprus, EU in a quandary as China eases travel curbs

Discordant messages from Nicosia and Brussels as EU ponders swabbing Chinese travelers

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Cypriot Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela has called a meeting to discuss China’s easing curbs on international travel, but there were mixed signals as to what guidelines are being followed at the EU level.

(Click here for an update to the story)

EU health commissioner Kyriakides has reportedly reached out to her Chinese counterparts to offer 'experience and knowhow' from Brussels including free vaccines

China began relaxing lockdowns and extensive testing after two years of strict COVID-19 policies, including altering its reporting methods as well as no longer planning to release an official daily coronavirus death toll.

Similar changes were made in the Republic of Cyprus and across the European Union during the pandemic, prompting criticism in the media over how governmental evolving policies were linked to actual data from member states.

But last week the World Health Organization expressed concern after Beijing said it would only include in the statistics as COVID deaths those who died directly of pneumonia or respiratory failure caused by the virus. Previously, people who died of an illness while infected with the virus were counted as a COVID death.

Italy has joined the United States in introducing mandatory COVID-19 tests on all travelers from China, with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni saying she "expects and hopes" for Rome's measures to be implemented on an EU level.

ECDC: mandatory screenings on Chinese unjustified

But the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says such measures on travelers from China are scientifically “unjustified.”

The ECDC went on to explain that that given higher population immunity in the bloc as well as the prior emergence and subsequent replacement of variants currently circulating in China by other Omicron sub-lineages, a surge in cases in China is not expected to impact the COVID-19 epidemiological situation.

Hadjipantela has called for a meeting of experts in Nicosia on Monday, January 2, saying the government “cannot be complacent.”

The Cypriot minister also confirmed during a visit at Famagusta General Hospital on Thursday that the variant currently affecting China was in fact found in Cyprus back in late summer of this year.

It was still unclear what the European Union might decide regarding mandatory screenings of Chinese travelers to the bloc.

But the situation was made more complicated after WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday said the global body remained concerned over the evolving situation in China.

Cypriot EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides also weighed in, with media reports suggesting she reached out to her Chinese counterparts to offer “experience and knowhow” from Brussels including free vaccines.

Western officials have accused Beijing of not being transparent when it comes to detailed data regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

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Cyprus  |  Europe  |  China  |  travel  |  pandemic  |  coronavirus  |  COVID  |  public health  |  Kyriakides  |  Hadjipantela

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