Covid-19 surveillance of Chinese arriving at Heathrow begins

The U.K. Health Security Agency will begin testing passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport from China this week in an effort to identify potential new variants of Covid-19.

The new surveillance program will identify positive tests in a sample of passengers flying in from China after the country relaxed travel restrictions.

The scheme will offer swabs for PCR tests to up to 20 percent of those arriving from selected flights.
Anyone who is offered the test is encouraged to take it, although the test is not mandatory for arrival, and passengers will receive their test results in a text or email.

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UKHSA has also asked the NHS to identify all patients hospitalized with Covid-19 who have a travel history that includes China within the previous 14 days.

Professor Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to UKHSA, said: “Testing passengers on arrival from China will allow UKHSA to quickly detect any potential new variants that have not yet been detected by international surveillance.

“So far the evidence suggests that the recent increase in cases in China is due to low natural immunity and low vaccine use, but this additional data will allow us to keep a watchful eye on the situation.
“Covid-19 is still widespread here in England, and it’s still important to try to stay home if you’re not feeling well, wash your hands regularly and try to ventilate well.”

The government has already announced that people flying from mainland China to England will have to show proof of a negative Covid test done no more than two days before departure.
Airlines are required to test all passengers from China with negative tests before departure, and passengers will not be able to board a flight without providing proof of a negative test result.

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