(Reuters) – Britain is reviewing whether to impose restrictions on people arriving from China after a surge in COVID infections there, but has no current plans to do so, officials said on Thursday.
Defence minister Ben Wallace told reporters a further update was possible in the coming days, but another minister said that a review of evidence so far did not suggest any concerning new variant that would lead the government to impose restrictions.
The United States, Japan, India and Taiwan have imposed testing on arrivals from China – as has Italy, which on Thursday urged the rest of the European Union to follow its lead.
“I’ll expect to see some clarification, I think by the Department for Transport probably today or tomorrow,” Wallace said.
“We keep it under review. We look at the traffic and where people are coming from, into this country. And then no doubt the Department of Transport will make their views known.”
Asked about Wallace’s comment, a spokesperson for the Department of Transport said that while the situation was under review, “at the moment there are no plans to introduce any new COVID-19 tests for arrivals”.
China’s health system has come under immense pressure since the government there scrapped three years of zero-COVID curbs in 30 days, setting off a massive wave of infections.
“The key threat is any new variant,” junior British health minister Will Quince told broadcasters.
“There’s no evidence at this point of a new variant from China, a variant that is not already prevalent here in the UK, but nevertheless we’re keeping the situation very much under review.”
Britain, which was led by Boris Johnson when the pandemic took hold in 2020, has been criticised for its slow response to the initial handling of the public health crisis.
But British ministers have also said the country’s approach to vaccination and steps to learn to live with the virus had been vindicated.
(Reporting by Gokul Pisharody in Bengaluru, Muvija M, Alistair Smout and Farouq Suleiman in London; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Angus MacSwan and Andrew Heavens)
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