US to require travelers from China to show negative Covid-19 test result before flight


The United States will require all travelers from China to present a negative Covid-19 test result before traveling to the country, as Beijing’s rapid easing of Covid-19 restrictions leads to an increase in cases.

Passengers traveling to the United States from China will be required to take a test no more than two days before the flight, federal health officials said, and present proof of the negative test to their airline before boarding.

The tests can be either a PCR test or an antigen self-test administered through a telehealth service.

The requirement will apply to both passengers traveling directly to the United States from China as well as passengers traveling via popular third-country gateways, including Seoul, Toronto and Vancouver.

Passengers who test positive more than 10 days before their flight can provide documentation of their recovery in lieu of a negative test result.

The new rules go into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on January 5.

U.S. officials have expressed deep concerns about China’s lack of transparency over the latest surge in cases, particularly the lack of genome sequencing information that could help detect new strains of coronavirus.

“We know that these measures will not eliminate all risk or completely prevent infected people from entering the United States,” a federal health official said. Still, “taken together, they will help limit the number of people infected and provide us with an early warning of new variants.”

US health officials said the January 5 deadline was chosen to give airlines enough time to adjust their operations to implement the new rules. Officials did not estimate how long they expected these rules to remain in place, saying they would “monitor the situation on the ground and adjust as necessary”.

Additionally, officials announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding the traveler-based genomic surveillance program to Seattle and Los Angeles airports, bringing the total number of participating airports to seven with approximately 500 weekly flights from at least 30 countries covered. . This will include around 290 weekly flights from China and surrounding areas.

“We are expanding this to hopefully detect any variants that may emerge” as well as “to reduce transmission of new variant by introducing this pre-departure testing program,” an official said.

The new requirement comes as Japan and India announced Covid-19 measures for travelers from China amid concerns about a rise in cases.

Japan requires people traveling from China to be tested for Covid-19 upon arrival from December 30. Indian authorities have said travelers from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand will need to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test on arrival. in India and quarantined if they test positive.

China began easing its tough Covid-19 measures after dismantling the country’s longstanding zero-Covid policy earlier this month. On Monday, China announced it would end quarantine requirements for international arrivals from January 8, marking a major step towards reopening its borders.

But the sudden end to China’s strict health policy caught many in the country off guard and strained the health system as it grapples with rising infections.

The officials noted that “the CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask while traveling, self-monitoring for symptoms, and testing for three days after arrival for international travel.”

Officials said China had uploaded “only about 100” new sequences to public databases in recent weeks, “including Omicron subvariants such as BA.5,” but the small size of the sample leaves room for concern, the CDC said.

“What worries us is that a new variant could emerge in China,” an official said. “With so many people infected in China in a short period of time, there is a chance and a probability that a new variant will emerge.”

When asked if there were any concerns about the veracity of the data – and whether China was truthful and transparent, an official said it was mainly the amount of data that concerned the administration at this stage. .

“We just have limited information in terms of what’s shared regarding the number of cases (which) are increasing hospitalizations, and especially deaths,” he said. “Additionally, there has been a decrease in testing across China. It is therefore also difficult to know what the true rate of infection is.

China’s Foreign Ministry responded on Wednesday to reports that the United States was considering imposing restrictions on travelers from China, urging parties to work together to ensure the safe movement of people between countries and stability. of the global supply chain.

“We need all parties to work together scientifically against the epidemic to ensure the safe movement of people between countries, maintain the stability of the global industrial chain supply chain, and promote the resumption of healthy growth. of the global economy,” the Chinese foreign ministry said. spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a briefing.

This story has been updated with additional developments.


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