Dr. Hans Kluge, head of the World Health Organization for Europe, explained that this is because the two variants circulating in China are already present in European countries, according to data provided by the Chinese authorities.
Restrictions Not Unreasonable
The WHO senior official acknowledged that China had shared virus sequencing information, but he appealed for more “detailed and regular information”, especially concerning local epidemiology and variants “to better assess the evolving situation”. Dr Kluge also said that travel restrictions by European countries on visitors from China were “not unreasonable…while we are waiting for more detailed information that is shared through publicly available databases”.
The message comes as Chinese embassies suspended issuing new visas for South Koreans and Japanese visitors on Tuesday. The announcement covered tourist, business and some other visa categories. The move appears to be in response to COVID-19 testing requirements recently imposed by those countries on travelers from China.
He commended European countries, including Denmark, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, that have maintained strong genomic surveillance and pointed out that their recent data has started to indicate the growing presence of the new XBB.1.5 recombinant virus, derived from the Omicron variant, that has already been spreading rapidly across the United States.
The new strain is being “picked up in small, but growing numbers, and we are working to assess its potential impact,” he said. “With many countries grappling with overstretched health systems, shortages in essential medicines and an exhausted health workforce – we cannot afford more pressures on our health systems.”
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