ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 144

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Israel joins nations requiring travelers from China to submit negative COVID tests

Measure does not apply to Israeli citizens, who have been advised to avoid all unnecessary travel to China amid surge in virus cases as Beijing lifts zero-COVID policy

Masked travellers use their smartphones to fill in their health declaration after checking in at the international flight check in counter at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Masked travellers use their smartphones to fill in their health declaration after checking in at the international flight check in counter at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Newly appointed Health Minister Aryeh Deri on Friday announced new COVID-19 testing requirements for travelers from China, joining other nations imposing restrictions because of a surge of infections.

The decision, Deri’s first since taking office on Thursday, comes after the rollback of China’s strict anti-virus controls. China’s “zero COVID” policies had kept China’s infection rate low but fueled public frustration and crushed economic growth.

The ministry was told to inform airlines not to allow travel from China for non-Israelis without a negative PCR test.

Deri gave the order following consultation with senior Health Ministry officials. The order does not apply to Israeli citizens, who have nevertheless been advised to avoid all travel to China that is not strictly necessary.

Deri also ordered the ministry to set up voluntary testing stations for those arriving at Ben Gurion airport.

In doing so, Israel joins a number of nations requiring testing from travelers from China.

Israel, which had some of the strictest travel restrictions, only reopened its skies in March.

Beginning Jan. 5, all travelers to the US from China will be required to take a COVID-19 test no more than two days before travel and provide a negative test before boarding their flight. The testing applies to anyone two years and older, the US said Wednesday.

Other countries have taken similar steps in an effort to keep infections from spreading beyond China’s borders. Japan will require a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival for travelers from China, and Malaysia announced new tracking and surveillance measures. India, South Korea and Taiwan are requiring virus tests for visitors from China.

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.

The US action is a return to requirements for some international travelers. The Biden administration lifted the last of such mandates in June. At that time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continued to recommend that people boarding flights to the US get tested close to departure time and not travel if they are sick.

Illustrative: A health worker takes a swab sample from a woman to test for COVID-19 in the Jing’an district in Shanghai, China on December 23, 2022. (Hector RETAMAL/AFP)

Early in the pandemic, the US barred entry to foreigners traveling from China, weeks after the virus first emerged there three years ago. Americans were allowed to return home and flights from China were funneled to selected airports where passengers were screened for the illness.

But the virus already was spreading in the US among people with no travel history.

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