BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union should immediately consider expanding genomic sequencing of COVID-19 infections and monitoring of wastewater, including from airports, to detect new variants given the rise of the virus in China, the minister said. head of health of the block.
In a letter to the health ministers of the 27-member EU, Stella Kyriakides said the bloc should be “very vigilant” as China lifted travel restrictions on January 8, as reliable epidemiological and test data for China they were quite scarce.
Kyriakides advised ministers in the letter, which was reviewed by Reuters, to assess their current practices on coronavirus genomic sequencing “as an immediate step.”
If the sequence had been reduced, countries could consider increasing it again, he wrote, adding that it was important to continue or begin monitoring of wastewater, including wastewater from key airports.
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If a new variant appeared, the bloc needed to detect it early so it could react quickly, the commissioner wrote.
The commissioner’s letter, dated December 29, followed an online meeting of more than 100 representatives of EU members, EU health agencies and the World Health Organization to discuss how to deal with the outbreak in China. .
Health experts are expected to hold a crisis response meeting next week, according to an EU source.
Italy has urged the rest of the European Union to follow suit and screen travelers from China, but most EU members have said they saw no need to do so. Kyriakides said that some EU members had proposed measures such as the random testing of travelers.
Spain said on Friday it would join other countries in setting new restrictions by requiring travelers from China to test negative or show they have been fully vaccinated.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control says it currently recommends no measures for travelers from China.
He said variants circulating in China were already in the European Union, EU citizens had relatively high levels of vaccination and potential imported infections were low compared to the number of daily infections in the EU, and care systems medical currently manage.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Philippa Fletcher)
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