The United States will require all travelers from China to show a negative test result for Covid-19 before flying into the country, as cases rise as Beijing quickly eases its Covid-19 restrictions.
Passengers flying to the US from China will be required to take the test at least two days before their flight and provide proof of a negative test to their airline before boarding the plane, according to federal health officials.
Tests can be a PCR test or an antigen self-test performed via a telehealth service.
The requirement will apply to both passengers flying directly to the US from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, as well as for passengers flying through popular third country gateways including Seoul, Toronto and Vancouver.
Passengers who test positive more than 10 days before their flight can submit their recovery documents instead of a negative test result.
The new rules come into effect on January 5. 12:01 a.m. ET.
American officials have expressed deep concern about China’s lack of transparency regarding the latest surge in cases, particularly the lack of genome sequencing information that could help detect new strains of the 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, “together, they will help limit the number of people infected and provide early warning of new variants.”
U.S. health officials said the Jan. 5 schedule was chosen to give airlines enough time to adjust to the implementation of the new rules. Officials did not say how long they expect the rules to be in place, saying they will “monitor the situation on the ground and make adjustments as necessary.”
In addition, officials announced that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding its traveler-based genome monitoring program to Seattle and Los Angeles airports, bringing the total number of participating airports to seven, with roughly 500 flights a week from at least 30 countries. . This will include approximately 290 weekly flights from China and surrounding areas.
“We’re expanding that, hopefully to cover every possible option,” as well as “minimize the transmission of a new option by implementing this pre-departure testing program,” the official said.
The new requirement comes as Japan and India announced COVID-19 measures for travelers from China amid concerns about a surge in cases.
Japan requires travelers from China who arrive after December 30 to be screened for Covid-19. Indian authorities said travelers from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand will have to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival. to India and be quarantined if they test positive.
China has begun easing its strict Covid-19 measures after scrapping the country’s long-standing zero-Covid policy earlier this month. On Monday, China announced that from January 8 will lift quarantine requirements for international arrivals, a major step toward upgrading its borders.
But the sudden end to China’s strict health policies came as a surprise to many in the country and has strained the health system as it struggles to cope with a surge in infections.
Officials noted that “CDC continues to recommend masking during travel, monitoring for symptoms, and testing for three days after arrival for international travel.”
Officials said China uploaded “only about 100” new sequences to public databases in recent weeks, “including Omicron subvariants such as BA.5,” but the small sample size is a concern, according to the CDC.
“We are concerned that a new variant may emerge in China,” one official said. “With so many people infected in China in such a short period of time, there is a chance and a chance that a new variant will emerge.”
Asked if there were concerns about the accuracy of the data and whether China had been fair and transparent, the official said the administration’s main concern right now is the amount of data.
“We only have limited information about what is being shared about the cases (which) are increasing hospitalizations and especially deaths,” he said. “In addition, there has been a decline in testing across China. So it is also difficult to know what the true level of infection is.
China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday responded to reports that the United States is considering restrictions on travelers from China, urging countries to cooperate to ensure the safe movement of people between countries and the stability of global supply chains.
“We need all countries to scientifically cooperate against the epidemic to ensure the safe movement of people between countries, maintain the stability of the supply chain of the global industrial chain, and promote the healthy growth of the world economy,” China’s foreign ministry said. spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a briefing.
This story has been updated with additional changes.