The United States on Wednesday announced new COVID-19 testing requirements for all travelers from China, joining other countries imposing restrictions due to a surge in infections.
The rise in cases across China follows the rollback of strict antivirus controls in the country. China’s “zero COVID” policy kept infection rates low in the country, but public dissatisfaction stoked economic growth.
New US requirements, beginning January 5, apply to travelers regardless of nationality or vaccination status.
In a statement describing the tests, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the surge in infections and the lack of adequate and transparent information from China, including genome sequencing of the virus strains circulating in China. Stated.
“These data are important to effectively monitor surges in cases and reduce the likelihood of introducing new variants of concern,” said the CDC.
Some scientists believe the COVID-19 surge in China could unleash a new coronavirus variant into the world that may or may not be similar to the one currently circulating. This is because every infection is another chance for the virus to mutate.
Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Wuhan, China, as protests against China’s harsh COVID restrictions spread across the country.
Matthew Binicker, Director of Clinical Virology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, said:
But Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the CDC’s action was not to stop the new strain from crossing the U.S. border, but to do more against China. It said it could be to put pressure on people to share more information.The restrictions “will not be maintained longer than necessary.”
“I don’t think it will have a significant impact on slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Dowdy said.
Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, agreed that China has not shared enough genome sequencing information. But he also said the U.S. is a little complacent about sequencing and needs to redouble its own efforts. announced an expansion of its early warning program to test for potential variants. The program will expand to airports in Seattle and Los Angeles.
New U.S. regulations require travelers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau to the U.S. to take a COVID-19 test at least two days before travel and provide a negative test before boarding their flight. This test applies to anyone over the age of 2, including US citizens.
This applies to people traveling from China via a third country and to other destinations via the United States. If she tested positive more than 10 days before the flight, she can submit documentation that she has recovered from COVID-19 instead of a negative test result.
It is up to the airline to check negative test and recovery documentation before passengers board.
Other countries have taken similar measures to prevent the infection from spreading beyond China’s borders. Japan required a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival for travelers from China, and Malaysia announced new tracking and surveillance measures. India, Italy, South Korea and Taiwan have mandated virus testing for visitors from China.
The Chinese New Year, which begins on January 22, is typically China’s busiest travel season, and China announced Tuesday it will resume issuing tourist passports for the first time since the start of the 2020 pandemic.
“We look forward to welcoming Chinese travelers back to the United States,” American Travel Association President and CEO Jeff Freeman said in a statement. called the approach “reasonable and appreciated”.
The US action is a return to testing requirements for some international travelers. The Biden administration lifted the last such mandate in June. At the time, the CDC continued to recommend that people boarding flights to the United States be tested near departure time and not travel if sick.
“I’ve done this before. I can do it again,” said Dowdy.
Early in the pandemic, the United States banned entry for foreigners traveling from China. This comes weeks after the virus first broke out three years before her, adding dozens of other countries to the list. The country began lifting travel bans late last year, but travelers to the United States were still required to be vaccinated and tested.
Contributed by AP Science Writer Laura Ungar.