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Belgium to test wastewater on airliners from COVID-hit China


Passengers wait in a line to undergo coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test at a new testing site at the Brussels Airport, Belgium January 2, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Belgium will test wastewater from planes arriving from China for new COVID variants as part of new steps against the spread of the coronavirus as infections in China surge, the government announced on Monday.

“This will be an additional monitoring objective to verify that the data we receive from China is accurate,” Steven Van Gucht of the Sciensano national public health institute told Reuters.

He said Belgium was aware that some COVID-infected passengers might not use the toilet during their flights, and therefore the new measure was “not meant to track people but to track independently what is happening in China.”

Belgium is also asking travellers from China to test themselves for COVID-19 if they show symptoms seven days after arriving, but will not enforce this measure.

At a press conference announcing the new measures, Belgian Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said that a European Union-wide policy was needed towards China’s COVID surge.

EU health officials will hold talks on Wednesday on a coordinated response.

Authorities around the world are imposing or considering curbs on travellers from China, including mandatory testing for COVID, as infections there spread following Beijing’s relaxation of “zero-COVID” rules.