Beginning next week, travelers from China will need to test negative for COVID-19 before boarding flights to the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. The testing requirements apply to travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, and cover all passengers regardless of nationality or vaccination status, according to the CDC.
The CDC is now urging Americans to “reconsider travel to China, Hong Kong and Macau.” In a travel alert issued Wednesday, the agency cited “reports that the health system is overwhelmed” and the risk of the new variant.
Beyond masks while traveling, such as at airports and planes, the CDC recommends that Americans visiting China wear masks indoors and in public.
The move comes amid a record wave of infections in China since then.Early December.The Chinese government has started It was imposed several years ago, early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“CDC is announcing this step to slow the spread of COVID-19 during a spike in COVID-19 cases in the United States. [People’s Republic of China] “Given the lack of sufficient and transparent epidemiological and viral genome sequencing data reported from China,” the CDC said in a statement.
Starting Jan. 5, airlines will be required to collect proof of a negative COVID-19 test from all passengers aged 2 and above before boarding flights from China to the U.S. Lab-based PCR Both testing and antigen self-testing are acceptable as long as they are supervised by a healthcare provider.
Travelers on connecting flights must also prove a negative test result.
Anyone traveling to the United States via Incheon International Airport in South Korea, Toronto Pearson International Airport in Canada, or Vancouver International Airport in Canada must take a negative test if they have been in China in the past 10 days.
“These three transit hubs cover the overwhelming majority of travelers originating in China and the Special Administrative Regions. We will continue to keep the public informed,” the CDC said. .
Federal health officials have not required international visitors to test negative for COVID-19 since the requirement was lifted in June. The United States continues to require all foreign travelers to prove they have received a complete first series of COVID-19 vaccine.
Officials said Wednesday they are waiting until next week to impose measures to allow airlines to implement the reinstated requirements.
“It will take some effort for airlines to update their data systems and put all this in. So we have to make this announcement today, but it will take time to implement the program,” said the federal government. A health official told reporters: briefing.
Officials were the first to acknowledge on Tuesday that they are considering the move, pointing to similar measures taken against China by Japan and other countries. They also cited China’s own rules for arriving foreign tourists. This requires Americans and other foreign travelers to continue to test negative.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said ahead of the US announcement, “For all countries, the response to the new coronavirus is science-based and will not affect normal people-to-people exchanges. I’ve always believed that we need to make sure it doesn’t happen,” he said.
Concerns about COVID variants
In addition to the new requirements, the CDC said it plans to expand its current variant monitoring efforts to two new international airports in Los Angeles and Seattle.
The agency has already tracked variants over the past few months that have been spotted in voluntary tests collected from arriving international travelers, collected from bathrooms on some aircraft, according to the CDC. Wastewater is also currently being tested for mutations.
The expanded program will cover 290 weekly flights from China and neighboring countries, according to the CDC.
“There is very limited information in public databases about variants currently circulating in China. Only about 100 sequences have been uploaded in the past few months,” said a federal health official.
They cited the threat the virus could pose because it infects a vast range of “immunologically naive” people in China.
“What we are concerned about is the new variants that could actually emerge in China. There are so many people in China that have been infected in a short period of time, and new variants could emerge. Or possibly,” the official said. .
Scientists, all but a handful of travelers, have expressed frustration with the sparse variant sequencing released from China amid China’s current wave of infections.
All variants currently circulating in China are descended from Omicron, Chinese state media reported, citing local health officials, with BA.5.2 and BF.7 dominating infections in the country. doing.
First discovered earlier this year, these two strains are among the viruses circulating in the United States to date. Instead, CDC estimates rank BQ.1, BQ.1.1, and XBB stocks far ahead of them nationwide.
XBB-related infections have surged across the Northeast in recent weeks, rising to more than half of all new infections across the region. It has the highest hospitalization rate since then.
Scientists believe a progeny called XBB.1.5 is behind the new surge and has immune evasion capabilities. mutation It appears to bind well to human cells.