Anyone arriving in the United States from China via air travel will need to undergo COVID-19 testing prior to their arrival.
The announcement follows news that the Chinese government has reduced pandemic-era travel restrictions amid an increase in COVID-19 cases. The Communist country recently abandoned its longheld “zero COVID” policy which was marked by strict lockdowns and isolation requirements in order to contain the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new order applies to anyone arriving from mainland China, as well as Hong Kong and Macau. Travelers must test negative for COVID-19 not more than 48 hours before traveling to the US. Additionally, any passengers who have been in China in the last 10 days who are traveling to America through the Incheon International Airport, the Toronto Pearson International Airport, or the Vancouver International Airport will need to have a negative COVID-19 test.
The policy goes into effect on Jan. 5 and will apply to any passengers ages 2 and older.
“The U.S. is following the science and advice of public health experts, consulting with partners, and considering taking similar steps we can take to protect the American people,” said the CDC, per CBS News.
American officials have alluded to concerns about the accuracy of the reported information regarding the current COVID-19 outbreak in China.
“What we’re concerned about is a new variant may emerge actually in China,” an unnamed official told CNN. “With so many people in China being infected in a short period of time, there is a chance and probability that a new variant will emerge.”
“We have just limited information in terms of what’s being shared related to number of cases (that) are increasing hospitalizations, and especially deaths,” he added. “Also, there’s been a decrease in testing across China. So that also makes it difficult to know what the true infection rate is.”
China’s National Health Commission announced on Dec. 25 that it will no longer be publishing a daily report of the total number of confirmed cases. It has been estimated that several hundred million people have contracted COVID-19 in the last month. The Chinese government has not confirmed these reports.
“Given such uncertainty, external observers seeking to estimate the magnitude of the current outbreak in China must rely on rough proxy measures,” reports The Economist. “One such source of data is internet search engines, which people can use to look up disease symptoms and treatments. Although people frequently search for information about stories occurring outside their countries’ borders, specific terms indicating that someone may be directly affected can prove surprisingly informative about local conditions.”
The US federal government had previously ended COVID-19 testing requirements for international arrivals in June after implementing the policy after the global outbreak of the virus in March of 2020.
A similar COVID-19 testing requirement for arrival from China has been implemented by Japan, Malaysia, India, South Korea, and Taiwan.
“Lunar New Year, which begins Jan. 22, is usually China’s busiest travel season, and China announced Tuesday it will resume issuing passports for tourism for the first time since the start of the pandemic in 2020,” per AP News.
Chinese officials have urged global leaders to focus on a collaborative approach to dealing the COVID-19 and international travel. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Wenbin specifically called attention to the potential effect disrupted travel and transport may have on the global supply chains.
“We’ve always believed that for all countries, COVID response measures need to be science-based and proportionate without affecting normal people-to-people exchange,” Wenbin told reporters when asked about the new travel restrictions. “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 in the world economy.”