‘Unacceptable.’ China blasts countries for imposing COVID tests on travelers

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COVID-19 screenings imposed by multiple countries on travelers from China are “unacceptable” to Beijing, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning said Tuesday at a press briefing.

“Some countries have implemented entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travelers. This has no scientific basis, and some practices are unacceptable,” the Chinese spokesperson said, according to AFP. Beijing could “take countermeasures, following the reciprocity principle,” she warned.

The remarks met pushback in Europe. France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said she didn’t see anything wrong with France’s testing strategy.

“My government is within its role, by protecting French people and asking for tests,” Borne said Tuesday morning on Franceinfo.

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Last week, France was among the countries to impose mandatory COVID-19 testing on people traveling from China by plane after Beijing’s shift away from its zero-COVID policy spread concerns of an uncontrolled revival of the virus.

Italy was the first EU country to announce mandatory testing on December 28, followed by the U.S. the same day — though the U.S. measures will only be effective from January 5. France, Spain and the U.K. then followed suit.

In total, a dozen countries currently have travel restrictions targeting people traveling from China, French daily Le Figaro reported.

The measures include having to present a negative antigen or PCR test taken less than two days before boarding, or submitting to mandatory testing upon arrival.

In France, a “sequencing of the virus” will be carried out for positive tests conducted upon arrival, Borne said.

“We want to make sure that there are no new variants, and we are doing this in compliance with the rules from the World Health Organization,” she added.

EU countries’ disparate reactions to China’s COVID surge have created tensions among member countries, with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni calling for bloc-wide joint action, while the EU’s top scientific body criticized the measures as “unjustified.”

“All these decisions were taken after a first meeting between all the health officials from European countries,” Borne added, alluding to a meeting of the EU Health Security Committee last Thursday which resulted in countries deciding not to take any joint action.