Travelers flying to the United States from China will soon have to show a negative COVID-19 test or documentation they’ve recovered from the deadly virus before being allowed to board a flight.
The new requirement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to take effect Jan. 5 and comes as COVID-19 cases are surging in China after an abrupt end to mass testing and other restrictions.
The CDC cited “the lack of adequate and transparent epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data” being reported from China as the reason behind the decision announced Wednesday.
“These data are critical to monitor the case surge effectively and decrease the chance for entry of a novel variant of concern,” the federal agency said in a statement, referring to fears that new versions of the coronavirus may surface in China during the outbreak.
On Monday, China announced an end to strict quarantine requirements for travelers from overseas, seen as a significant step in reopening the country where the virus originated some three years ago.
But about 9,000 people in China are believed to be dying each day from COVID-19, according to the United Kingdom-based health data firm Airfinity, Reuters reported Thursday, nearly double last week’s estimates.
Since Dec. 1, Airfinity said its modeling suggests the total COVID-19 deaths in China may have hit 100,000, with infections reaching 18.6 million. By mid-January, COVID-19 cases in China could peak at 3.7 million daily, the firm said.
The CDC said an existing voluntary program to test for new variants by anonymously collecting nasal swabs from passengers arriving at U.S. international airports is being expanded, and the situation in China will continue to be monitored.
The new testing requirements aimed at passengers coming from China:
- Applies to all air passengers at least 2 years old regardless of their nationality or vaccination status who are departing from China, Hong Kong or Macau, as well as those traveling from China to the U.S. via another country.
- Provides for additional screening of passengers bound for the United States who are traveling through specific airports in South Korea and Canada to determine if they have been in China in the last 10 days.
- Mandates an authorized COVID-19 test “administered and monitored by a telehealth service or licensed provider” no more than two days before their departure that shows a negative result to the airline before boarding.
- Allows passengers who have tested positive more than 10 days before the flight to show documentation of their recovery from COVID-19 instead of a negative test result.
- Tells airlines to confirm the negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery for all passengers and deny boarding to those who cannot comply.