COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The director of the World Health Organization’s Europe office said Tuesday that the agency sees “no immediate threat" for the European region from a COVID-19 outbreak in China, but more information is needed.
China is battling a nationwide outbreak of the coronavirus after abruptly easing restrictions.
Hans Kluge said that, based on the information WHO had received from china, there was no threat, but more detailed and regular information was required from China to monitor the evolving situation.
“We cannot be complacent,” he added.
Several countries have imposed COVID-19 testing requirements on Chinese travelers. Australia and Canada require travelers from China to take a COVID-19 test prior to boarding their flight. Other countries including the U.S., India, Japan, South Korea and several European nations have announced tougher COVID-19 measures on travelers from China amid concerns over a lack of data on infections in China and fears that new variants may emerge.
China has threated to retaliate against countries that require travelers from China to show a negative test result for COVID-19 taken within the previous 48 hours. On Tuesday, it suspended issuing visas for South Koreans to come to the country for tourism or business in apparent retaliation for the move by Seoul.
“We do acknowledge that a number of countries, based on the precautionary principle, are implementing some measures,” the WHO Europe director said.
“It is not unreasonable for countries to take precautionary measures to protect their populations while we are waiting more detailed information that is shared in publicly accessible databases,” he said. Any measure should be “rooted in science, ... proportionate and non discriminatory.”
Catherine Smallwood, the World Health Organization’s Europe COVID-19 incident manager, added that “we should not be blindsided at any point by an exclusive focus on one particular geographic area.”
Earlier this month, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency was “concerned about the risk to life in China” amid the coronavirus’ explosive spread across the country and the lack of outbreak data from the Chinese government. He said the agency recently met with Chinese officials to underline the importance of sharing more details about COVID-19 issues including hospitalization rates and genetic sequences, even as the pandemic continues to recede globally since it began in late 2019.