On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that the outbreak of Covid-19 cases in China would not significantly affect Europe, as variants circulating there already exist on the European continent.
“The current rise in China is not expected to have a significant impact on the epidemiological situation with Covid-19 in the European Region,” WHO Regional Director Hans Kluge said at an online press conference.
Kluge also urged European countries to take action.”proportionate and non-discriminatory regarding travelers from China.
Several countries, including Portugal, the US, Japan, France and Germany, have begun requiring negative tests for travelers from China, and others have been advised to refrain from unnecessary travel to China.
Last week, the European Union urged its member states to introduce pre-flight screening in China, supplementing a negative test with “random tests” upon arrival in Europe.
“It is not wise for countries to take precautionary measures to protect their populations while we wait for more details” from China, as “these measures must be scientifically based,” Kluge said.
According to the WHO, 53 countries in the region, which stretches to Central Asia, are well protected against Covid, mainly due to high vaccination rates.
“As of early 2023, the region (…) is indeed in a very good position. We have robust population protection, partly due to waves of natural infection, but above all thanks to an overall excellent vaccination uptake,” said Katherine Smallwood, WHO emergency manager for Europe.
However, according to the organization, it is important to maintain a high level of vigilance.
“After three long years of a pandemic, with many countries grappling with overburdened health systems, shortages of essential medicines and depleted medical workforce, we cannot afford to put even more pressure on our health systems,” he insisted to Kluge.
“This threat could come from a disturbing new option anywhere and anytime, including here in Europe and Central Asia. Based on the lessons learned, we should be able to anticipate, detect and respond in time,” he added.