Thousands of aeroplane passengers arriving into the UK from China will be tested for COVID-19 amid a wave of new cases in the world’s most populated country. This will be on top of pre-departure testing and fast-track analysis of samples from patients in UK hospitals who have recently visited China.
Passengers arriving at Heathrow airport from the country beginning next Sunday will be given PCR tests, as fears rise over potential new variants entering the UK.
New of sampling surveillance from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) had been revealed last week, but the i newspaper has now confirmed how large the sample size will be.
Beijing has not been forthcoming in information of any new variants of the disease since its strict zero-Covid restrictions were lifted last month.
China has now begun to share more genome sequences of Covid cases with international organisation, however the Government says they have not seen any “significant improvement” in data transparency.
From Thursday anyone travelling to the UK from China will be required to take a test before departing.
Anyone currently in a British hospital being treated for COVID-19 will also be asked if they have recently travelled to China, with those samples being fast-tracked to analyse for new variants.
China’s borders will be completely opened from January 8, which has led to increased anxiety amongst the international community about a new wave of cases.
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Millions of people in China are now thought to have contracted the disease following the end of restrictions.
Other countries which have introduced travel testing measures on those arriving from the east Asian nation include the US, Taiwan, France, Spain, Italy and Japan.
The dominant variant in China, BF.7, has already circulated in the UK, however there are worries that a new variant could emerge that would evade immunity from vaccination and previous infection.
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Those who test positive will not be required to isolate as quarantine rules in this country have been axed.
A UKHSA source said the targeted surveillance of 2,000 passengers a day would “help us more rapidly detect any new variants amongst travellers and build a fuller picture of the landscape of variants circulating in China.
The source continued: “A sample will help us gain a representative picture of travellers entering the country, whilst other measures such as pre-departure testing may reduce the number of people with COVID-19 arriving in the UK.”