Brussels has “strongly encouraged” EU governments to impose pre-departure Covid-19 tests on travellers from China in response to a surge of infections after Beijing lifted a lengthy lockdown.
Experts from the 27 national governments on Wednesday agreed to recommend the measure, following moves by Italy, Spain and France.
Sweden, holder of the EU rotating presidency, convened the meeting under the integrated political crisis response mechanism.
It said afterwards that governments had agreed on a “co-ordinated precautionary approach”, which includes random testing of some arrivals from China, and advice to wear masks on flights.
There should also be monitoring of the wastewater from aircraft, genomic surveillance at airports and increased monitoring and sequencing to detect new Covid variants.
Countries are free to follow suit or add extra measures since health policy is determined by national governments not Brussels.
China, which already requires travellers to test before boarding flights to China, has called pre-flight testing “disproportionate and simply unacceptable” and would “take corresponding measures in response”.
The European commission said the EU controls were “justified… with the evolution of the situation in China”.
The airline industry condemned the move.
“It is extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years,” said Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association.