It’s going to be interesting to see how global health authorities deal with this, as it sure feels a whole lot like 2020 again…
Italy tests travelers arriving from China
China has radically changed its approach toward the coronavirus pandemic. The country went from a strategy of avoiding cases at all costs, to now letting the virus rip throughout the country.
Since China has been isolated from the rest of the world for the past three years, China’s epidemiological situation hasn’t had a major impact on global travel. That’s going to be changing, as China is opening its borders as of January 8, 2023, leading the way for those in China to travel around the globe again.
International health authorities are trying to figure out how to deal with this. Japan has announced it will restrict travel from China, while the United States is adding a testing requirement for travelers from China.
With the current coronavirus outbreak in China (which the Chinese government seems to be greatly underplaying), Italy has started doing on-arrival testing of airline passengers arriving from China, with a quarantine required for those who test positive. Here’s how Italy’s Minster of Health, Orazio Schillaci, describes this decision:
“I have arranged, by ordinance, mandatory Covid antigenic swabs, and related sequencing of the virus, for all passengers coming from China and in transit in Italy. The measure is essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population.”
So, what are the initial results? As reported by Italy’s Corriere, the first flight tested this week from Beijing had an astounding 52% of passengers test positive for coronavirus. Yow.
That wasn’t an isolated incident either. On two subsequent flights, an average of 46% of passengers tested positive for coronavirus (97 infections among 212 passengers).
This is a tricky situation…
I don’t envy the decisions that public health officials have to make, as they try to decide how to handle this.
The way I view it, the issue isn’t the sheer number of cases as such. After all, most health authorities around the world have declared that the pandemic is no longer an emergency, and don’t even require that people quarantine if they test positive for coronavirus.
So while getting a lot of new cases isn’t great, realistically that doesn’t seem like it should directly lead to major new restrictions.
The bigger issue here is the extent to which China clearly isn’t willing to be honest about the current outbreak. It’s one thing if the Chinese government were transparent about case numbers, the exact strain of the virus that’s most prevalent in China, etc.
But the Chinese government simply can’t be trusted. I mean, just recently Beijing was reporting a few thousand cases and a handful of deaths in the country per day, when the real number is believed to be exponentially higher than that.
The way I view, the biggest benefit of testing travelers arriving from China is to be able to get more information about the exact variant of the virus that’s mutating in China, rather than anything else.
While the Chinese government is downplaying the coronavirus surge in the country, it’s pretty clear that it’s awful, and this all comes as China reopens its borders. Italy has started testing passengers arriving from China, and the data doesn’t look good, with over 50% of passengers on one flight testing positive for the virus.
Are you surprised to see the positivity rate on flights from China?