U.S. Reinstates Travel Restrictions – Now Requiring Tests For Passengers From China
If you thought COVID tests and traveler entry requirements were long over, you were thinking too soon because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just announced today that as of January 5, any traveler from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and regions Hong Kong, and Macau will need a negative COVID test before boarding flights to the U.S.
This news comes on the heels of reports that China’s COVID case numbers are surging, with hospitals being overwhelmed with not having enough ER staff or beds to meet the demand of cases. China has been rolling back many of its strictest rules such as mass testing, lockdowns, and mandatory quarantines in the past month and announced earlier this week that it would be removing the requirement for overseas travelers to quarantine upon arrival. This move came as a surprise to some since the country has been struggling to contain the virus and has traditionally followed a Zero-Covid approach.
China has stopped reporting daily data on infections pointing to a lack of reliability over the data, but it has been estimated by a UK-based health data firm that the country is averaging around 5,000 deaths and more than one million infections per day.
Countries have pointed to new variants and slowing the spread of the virus as their reasoning for reinstating travel testing again, with the CDC pointing out that variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are continuing to show up in countries around the world. The CDC explains that China has been specifically targeted due to its “reduced testing and case reporting” and that “minimal sharing of viral genomic sequence data could delay the identification of new variants of concern if they arise,” according to a CDC press release.
Following the CDC’s announcement, Italy revealed a few hours later it would require all passengers from China to provide a negative COVID test. Italy had been testing passengers arriving from China this week and had found almost 50% of passengers had tested positive on a flight to Milan.
Earlier this week, India announced that it would require travelers to have a negative COVID test before boarding, while Japan and Taiwan have implemented testing upon arrival, and Malaysia has increased tracking and surveillance measures.
Italy’s Health Minister Orazio Schillaci reflected a similar sentiment saying “the measure is essential to ensure surveillance and detection of possible variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population.”
Starting on January 5, passengers with direct flights from the PRC, as well as passengers using South Korea’s Incheon International Airport, and Canada’s Toronto Pearson International Airport and Vancouver International Airport as transits to the U.S. will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test if they have been in PRC for the past 10 days. This is regardless of nationality and vaccination status.
The CDC will also be expanding its Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance program (TGS), where it will test for new and rare variants with nasal swabs from voluntary passengers arriving at international U.S. airports. The program is currently in place at 5 major airports and is now being added to Los Angeles and Seattle, where collectively, it will test approximately 500 flights from 30 different countries per week to determine any new variants.
As the world continues to monitor the COVID situation closely, certain areas are taking precautionary measures to curb the spread, such as bringing back mask mandates. Los Cabos has created mask mandates for indoor public settings and transportation, while other officials in cities like New York and Los Angeles are calling again for mask wearing in public spaces.