Pandemic: Covid test when entering from China: how does Germany proceed?

The corona wave in China is not yet a reason for the federal government to impose new entry restrictions.

Pandemic: Covid test when entering from China: how does Germany proceed?

The corona wave in China is not yet a reason for the federal government to impose new entry restrictions. The situation is being monitored very carefully, said a spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Health on request.

Italy, for example, proceeds differently: passengers from China have to take a mandatory corona test at the airport after they land. The authorities began taking appropriate measures at Rome's Fiumicino Airport on Thursday. The United States (from January 5) and India (from Sunday) announced that in future travelers will have to show a negative result before departure. However, some experts express doubts about the usefulness of such measures.

Fear of new virus variant

The background to the measures, for example in the USA and Italy, are also fears of a new virus variant possibly emerging in China. Official Chinese information is considered insufficient by the US health authority CDC. High numbers of infected passengers were also reported from Milan: on December 26, two planes from China landed there, with 97 of 210 tested passengers testing positive for Corona.

After almost three years of strict precautions, China's leadership abruptly announced an end to its controversial zero-corona policy on December 7th. According to officially unconfirmed internal estimates, 248 million people or 18 percent of the population were infected with Corona in the first three weeks of December alone.

So far there is no evidence of a new virus variant that is more dangerous than the one currently spreading in Germany, the federal government said. But this could still change.

How are travel restrictions assessed?

Andreas Bobrowski, chairman of the Professional Association of German Laboratory Doctors, described the travel restrictions as a "political overreaction". "A medical necessity for this cannot be derived from the course of the pandemic," he told the German Press Agency. Even when the corona was at its peak in Europe with millions of infections within a short period of time, no more dangerous variants had developed - it is speculative to expect this in China.

In any case, neither rapid tests nor PCR tests in symptom-free patients offer absolute security because of the "much too large" time window before departure, said Bobrowski. In the USA, the result must not be older than two days, in India it is 72 hours. From Bobrowski's point of view, the most useful thing is to study virus variants - to see what's coming.

The first laboratory results of the samples from passengers have shown that variants and sublines that are already known in Italy are circulating in China, said Italy's Health Minister Orazio Schillaci in Parliament. "That's the reassuring news."

"The USA and Italy apparently want to react in some way to developments in China and demonstrate civil protection. But I currently see no need for such steps for Germany," said Bremen epidemiologist Hajo Zeeb of the German Press Agency. The benefit of the travel restrictions is questionable - the virus cannot be stopped even with tests. In addition, there are currently numerous infections with omicron in this country.

"If there were very low incidences here, such measures could be justified more easily. But if some of the people arriving from China arrive here infected, there is no reason to fear a new wave," said Zeeb.

Of course, there are gaps in knowledge about official Chinese numbers and any variants. However, Zeeb assesses the initial situation differently than, for example, when Omicron emerged: the virus had changed back then so that it could still cause infections after the first waves - as an immune escape variant. "Since the immunity in China is not very high so far, Omikron can probably just walk through there."

Montgomery: Germany should do the same

The chairman of the board of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, considers new entry rules for travelers from China to be sensible. He told the Funke media group: "It is right to make mandatory testing and quarantine regulations for border crossings from China, as is currently happening in many countries around the world. Germany should also do this - out of caution."

The board member of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Eugen Brysch, not only considers new regulations for travelers from China to be "bullshit". He also dislikes the public debate about it. "Corona was over yesterday. Stricter measures again today. It is precisely this strategy that is causing confusion among the population."