Department of Health and Social Care
Temporary border measures to enhance Covid surveillance from China removed
Precautionary and temporary measures introduced in January to improve the UK’s ability to detect potential new variants of Covid from China are being removed.
- From today (Friday 17 March 2023) the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) voluntary, on-arrival testing programme of travellers arriving from China to London’s Heathrow airport is set to end
- In addition, from 5 April 2023, people flying from mainland China to England will no longer require proof of a negative pre-departure test
- The removal of these measures comes as China has increased information sharing regarding testing, vaccination and genomic sequencing results, providing greater transparency on their domestic disease levels
- Latest data indicates that the Covid variants observed in China continue to be the same as those already circulating in the UK
From today (Friday 17 March 2023), the Heathrow Covid testing surveillance programme delivered by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will end.
The programme was first introduced as a temporary measure in January 2023 to improve Covid surveillance of travellers arriving from China to Heathrow. The aim was to help strengthen the UK’s ability to rapidly detect potential new variants circulating in China.
Throughout the programme an average of 99 people per flight were tested, a total of 3,374 total to date. Over this time, 14 positive cases were identified, none of which were variants of concern.
In addition, passengers flying directly or indirectly from mainland China to England or transiting through will no longer need to show proof of a negative pre-departure test after 5 April. The regulations were implemented under powers within the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984 but are set to expire.
The removal of these measures comes as China has increased information sharing regarding testing, vaccination and genomic sequencing results, providing greater transparency on their domestic disease levels.
Latest international genomics data indicates that the Covid variants observed in China continue to be the same as those already circulating in the UK. The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that all regions have passed their infection peak.
The ending of this enhanced surveillance is in line with international partners such as the EU who are reducing border measures to monitor new variants from China. The UK continues to work closely with international partners on global security to detect and assess new Covid variants.
The government will continue to maintain a range of contingency measures in reserve, which would enable detection and swift and proportionate action for potential new harmful variants of Covid entering the UK, should the need arise.
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