News U.S. requires travelers from China to show negative Covid-19 test results before flying
The United States will require all travelers from China to show a negative Covid-19 test result before flying to the country as cases surge as Beijing rapidly eases Covid-19 restrictions.
Passengers flying to the U.S. from China will need to be tested no more than two days before departure and present proof of a negative test result to the airline before boarding, federal health officials said.
These tests can be PCR tests or antigen self-tests via telehealth services.
The requirement will also apply to passengers flying non-stop from China to the U.S., including Hong Kong and Macau, As well as passengers flying to popular third-country gateways such as 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 on January 5 at 12:01AM ET.
U.S. officials have expressed deep concern about China’s lack of transparency regarding the recent surge in cases, particularly the lack of genome sequencing information that would help detect new strains of the coronavirus.
“We know these measures will not eliminate all risk or completely prevent infected people from entering the United States,” a federal health official said. Still, “combining them will help limit the number of infections and give us early warning of new variants.”
U.S. health officials said the Jan. 5 timetable was chosen to give airlines ample time to adjust operations to implement the new rules. Officials did not estimate how long they expected the rules to last, saying they would “monitor local conditions and make adjustments as needed.”
Additionally, officials announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding the Genomic Traveler-Based Surveillance Program to airports in Seattle and Los Angeles, bringing the total number of participating airports to seven, with about 500 weekly flights from at least 30 countries Flights. This will include approximately 290 weekly flights from China and surrounding areas.
“We are expanding this to hopefully detect any variants that may emerge” and “reduce the spread of new variants by introducing this pre-departure testing program,” an official said.
The new requirements come as Japan and India announced Covid-19 measures for travelers from China amid concerns over rising cases.
Japan requires individuals traveling from China to be tested for Covid-19 on arrival starting December 30. Indian authorities said travelers from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test on arrival and if they test positive, travel to India and be quarantined.
China has begun easing its strict Covid-19 measures after scrapping the country’s long-standing Covid-free policy earlier this month. On Monday, China announced it would lift quarantine requirements for international arrivals from Jan. 8, marking an important step toward reopening its borders.
But the sudden end to China’s strict health policy caught many in the country off guard and put pressure on the health system as it grapples with rising infections.
“The CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask during travel, self-monitoring for symptoms and getting tested three days after arrival for international travel,” officials noted.
Officials said China had uploaded “approximately 100” new sequences to public databases in recent weeks, “including Omicron subvariants such as BA.5,” but the sample size was worryingly small, the CDC said.
“Our concern is that a new variant may actually emerge in China,” one official said. “So many people in China have been infected in a short period of time, there are opportunities and probabilities for new variants to emerge.”
Asked whether he was concerned about the veracity of the data — and whether China is being truthful and transparent — one official said the government’s main concern at the moment was the volume of data.
“We’re sharing limited information about the increase in hospitalizations, especially the number of deaths,” he said. “Also, testing is decreasing across China. So it also makes it difficult for us to know what the true infection rate is.”
China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday responded to reports that the United States was considering restrictions on travelers from China, urging all parties to work together to ensure the safe flow of people between countries and the stability of global supply chains.
“We need all parties to jointly fight the epidemic scientifically, ensure the safe flow of people from various countries, maintain the stability of the global industrial chain and supply chain, and promote the recovery of healthy growth of the world economy,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at the briefing.
This story has been updated with additional developments.