COVID travel restrictions for China arrivals ‘not working’: experts
Testing requirements put in place for travelers arriving from China due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country are « ineffective » and « a bit absurd », according to two infectious disease experts.
Following the easing of COVID-19 policies in China, which was quickly followed by a spike in cases, the United States, Japan, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Italy announced testing requirements for all travelers entering from China last week.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said it was monitoring the situation on Thursday.
An expert who spoke to CP24 on Thursday said he believed the government was doing enough to prevent cases from entering Canada, but testing policies were « performative » and not the solution.
Dr Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist, said measures taken by countries hoping to prevent cases from China are not « effective », citing Canada is unlikely to follow suit.
« If the goal is to keep COVID-19 out of Canada, a policy like that doesn’t do much. We already have a lot of COVID-19 here, » Bogoch said in a CP24 Breakfast interview Thursday. « If the objective here is to prevent new variants of concern from landing in Canada, well, we’ve seen that play out many times before; we had a travel policy with the UK with the Alpha variant. «
The concern is the rapid spread of COVID-19 causing the virus to mutate again. Bogoch said after the implementation of previous testing policies, COVID-19 still found its way into Canada.
« These policies are not effective, » Bogoch said. « Let’s not pretend for a second that requiring a negative test before traveling from a given country will prevent us from importing COVID-19 or importing variants of concern. »
The Public Health Agency of Canada said it is « monitoring » the situation in China and will use genomic sequencing data to track the potential impacts of cases.
Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Friday the party is « listening to the data » before deciding whether to argue for or against testing requirements.
“We have not yet decided whether we are going to ask the government to impose a mandatory test or vaccination at the border for flights from China,” he told a press conference. « But we will be watching it very carefully and basing our position on science and numbers. »
Bogoch said that while the goal was to have better oversight, using sewage testing at airports and carrying out aircraft sewage analysis would be a more effective policy and would « not get in the way. » The passengers ».
The rapid rise in the virus comes after widespread protests in China last month. The country then began to relax its “zero COVID-19 policy” by renouncing the restrictive measures in place for a few years.
The country of 1.4 billion people has reported overall high vaccination rates, but lower booster usage. Chinese vaccines have been shown to be less effective against serious infections than RNA versions made in the West.
Dr. Dale Kalina, an infectious disease specialist at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont., echoed similar sentiments about testing required at airports.
« What we’re seeing right now, with the policy developments in the United States, for example, the severance of everyone coming from China to the United States, is a bit absurd, » Kalina told CP24 at noon. Thursday.
Kalina cited policies on testing passengers from China « not working ».
« I think the federal government here is doing enough to prevent more COVID from coming into the country, » he said. « But this is in a situation where we already have widespread COVID across our country, so performative actions, like swabbing, testing and restrictions really won’t help anyone at all. »
Over the summer, testing requirements at airports were temporarily waived to reduce traveler wait times. In the fall, the Canadian government dropped all testing policies, including the ArriveCan app.
Between December 12 and 19, there was an increase in the use of hospital beds by COVID-19 patients, Health Canada’s website says. The number of people who needed a bed in a hospital increased from 5,488 to 5,548. The number of intensive care beds used by patients with COVID-19 across Canada increased from 260 to 248 beds , between December 12 and December 19.
Policies like this are performative at best.
This will not prevent the introduction of variants.
Want to know which variants are circulating and from where? Aircraft sewage sequence. https://t.co/QeomGwpxAk
—Isaac Bogoch (@BogochIsaac) December 28, 2022