"The current rise in China is not expected to have a significant impact on the epidemiological situation of covid-19 in the European region," said WHO regional director Hans Kluge at an online press conference.

Kluge further urged European countries to take "proportionate and non-discriminatory" measures towards travellers from China.

Several countries, including Portugal, the United States, Japan, France, and Germany, began to require negative tests for travellers from China and others advised against unnecessary trips to China.

Last week, the European Union encouraged its member states to impose pre-flight screening in China, complementing the negative test with "random tests" upon arrival on European soil.

"It is unreasonable for countries to take precautionary measures to protect their populations while we await more detailed information" from China, as "these measures must be scientifically justified," Kluge said.

According to WHO, the 53 countries in the region that extends to Central Asia, thanks mainly to the high vaccination rate, are well protected to deal with Covid.

"At the beginning of 2023, the region (...) really has a very good position. We have strong population protection, thanks in part to the waves of natural contagion that have occurred, but above all thanks to an excellent general adherence to vaccination", said Catherine Smallwood, WHO Europe emergency manager.

However, according to the organisation, it is important to maintain a high level of vigilance.

“After three long years of the pandemic, when many countries are struggling with overstretched health systems, shortages of essential medicines, and an exhausted health workforce, we cannot afford to put more strain on our health systems,” insisted Kluge.

"This threat could come from a worrying new variant, anywhere, anytime - including here in Europe and Central Asia. Based on lessons learned, we need to be able to anticipate, detect and react in time," he added.

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