US to Stop Testing for Travelers from China As COVID Health Emergency Ends

Testing Center at Airport

The United States plans to eliminate a Covid testing requirement for travelers from China that was introduced earlier this year, according to a source familiar with the matter on Tuesday.

The plan aims to discontinue the specific testing requirements for travelers arriving from China, which were implemented in early January.

Starting from January 5, the U.S. had mandated pre-departure negative Covid tests for travelers aged 2 and above flying from China. This policy was introduced following a surge in Covid-19 cases in China subsequent to the relaxation of its stringent “Covid-zero” policy in December.

NBC News sought comment from the Chinese Embassy in Washington regarding the plan, which comes amid escalated tensions between the two countries following an incident involving a suspected Chinese spy balloon crossing into the U.S. earlier this year.

This incident led to the cancellation of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned trip to Beijing, which would have marked the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State to China since Mike Pompeo’s visit in 2018.

Beijing had eased its Covid policies towards the end of the previous year after extensive nationwide protests against restrictions that had significantly impacted daily life for nearly three years.

However, the relaxation of rules was swiftly followed by a new wave of infections, prompting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to introduce the new travel rule: a mandatory negative Covid test within 48 hours of travel for passengers flying from China, Hong Kong, or Macao.

US Policy Change for Chinese Travelers (Photo: Getty Images)

Chinese authorities reported nearly 60,000 Covid-related deaths by January 14 since early December, asserting that the peak of their surge had passed.

However, a forecast by the British-based health analytics firm Airfinity just two days later projected a peak daily death toll of 36,000 from Covid-related causes in China by January 26, indicating a more severe outlook.

China has faced criticism for allegedly underreporting Covid-related deaths.

Since the implementation of the Covid travel policy in January, U.S. officials have observed evidence indicating declines in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in China, according to sources familiar with the decision to lift the testing requirement.

These sources also indicated that U.S. officials will continue to monitor the Covid situation in China and maintain the Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance Program launched in 2021.

This program involves the voluntary collection of nasal swab samples from arriving passengers on flights originating from approximately 30 countries to detect new variants of the virus.

Currently, the CDC mandates that all air travelers who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents must be fully vaccinated before flying into the country.

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