(CMR) With several countries, including the UK and the US, requiring a negative COVID-19 test from China arrivals, locals are wondering if the Cayman Islands will follow suit.
The UK is the latest country to announce that passengers arriving from China will need a negative Covid test before they travel as cases surge in the country. Several countries are enforcing testing after China relaxed its zero-COVID policy. China is expected to fully reopen its borders next week for the first time since 2020.
The UK Government announced that from 5 January, people flying from mainland China to England would be asked to take a pre-departure test. In addition, a sample of arrivals will be tested for COVID-19 to enhance existing measures to monitor for new variants.
Although there are no direct flights from China to Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, the Government said it is working with devolved nations to ensure this is implemented UK-wide as soon as possible.
The decision has been taken to introduce these measures specifically for China arrivals due to a lack of comprehensive health information shared by China. The situation remains under review, and the UK is working with China on the next steps. If there are improvements in information sharing and greater transparency, then temporary measures will be reviewed.
The volume of passengers from China remains low – however, as a precautionary measure, following the reopening of Chinese borders in January, the Government has taken these precautions.
Airlines will be required to check all passengers from China have negative pre-departure tests, and passengers will not be allowed to board a flight without providing evidence of a negative test result.
Passengers at Heathrow will be invited to participate in the study, and all positive samples will be sent for sequencing. This will further enhance the UK's ability to identify any new variants which may be circulating in China that could evade the immune response of those already vaccinated or which have the potential to successfully outcompete other variants and spread internationally.
England joins a growing list of countries worldwide, including the US, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Malaysia, and India, in announcing measures that will help detect and assess any new COVID-19 variants.
The available genomes from China and from other countries where testing has occurred suggest that the variants circulating in China are the same as seen in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. The UK has a number of surveillance systems in place to detect the prevalence and spread of new variants, and the UK's sequencing data is shared rapidly to help support global awareness and health security.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay said, “As Covid cases in China rise ahead of them reopening their borders next week, it is right for us to take a balanced and precautionary approach by announcing these temporary measures while we assess the data.”
“This allows our world-leading scientists at the UK Health Security Agency to gain rapid insight into potential new variants circulating in China. The best defense against the virus, however, remains the vaccine. NHS staff have done an incredible job delivering over 150 million jabs across the UK.” Barclay added.
“It isn't too late to come forward for your first, second, third, or autumn booster – it's quick and easy, and you can book online, on the NHS app, or just turn up at one of the many walk-in centers across the UK,” he continued.
The Government recognizes the impact that temporary health measures have on the travel and aviation industry. These testing requirements for travelers arriving from mainland China will be kept under regular review.
Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, said, “The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) continues to closely monitor the prevalence and spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants and keep available international data under review. The evidence suggests the recent rise in cases in China is due to low natural immunity and lower vaccine uptake, including boosters, rather than the emergence of new Covid-19 variants – unlike in the UK, where vaccines are maintaining high population protection. But in order to improve our intelligence, we are enhancing our surveillance, in addition to our current routine testing protocol.”
“COVID-19 cases continue to rise at home too, and it remains important to try to stay at home if you are unwell, wash your hands regularly, try to keep rooms well ventilated and remember the best protection is to get your booster jab if eligible,” Professor Hopkins added.