US, others to require travelers from China to submit negative COVID tests

Beginning January 5, America-bound passengers must test for virus no more than two days before flying, as cases in China jump following end of zero-COVID policy

File: Passengers wearing masks walk through Beijing Capital Airport terminal, in China, December 13, 2022. (AP/Ng Han Guan)
File: Passengers wearing masks walk through Beijing Capital Airport terminal, in China, December 13, 2022. (AP/Ng Han Guan)

AP — The US announced new COVID-19 testing requirements Wednesday for all travelers from China, joining other nations imposing restrictions because of a surge of infections.

The increase in cases across China follows the rollback of the nation’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.

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 2 years and older.

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 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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