Los Angeles Times

U.S. to ease COVID rules for arrivals from China

Improving situation in Asian nation is seen as a factor in decision.


WASHINGTON — The Biden administra­tion is preparing to relax COVID-19 testing restrictio­ns for travelers from China as early as Friday, according to two people familiar with the decision.

The people, who were not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the administra­tion has decided to roll back the testing requiremen­ts as cases, hospitaliz­ations and deaths are declining in China and the U.S. has gathered better informatio­n about the surge in infections there.

The restrictio­ns were put in place Dec. 28 and took effect Jan. 5 amid the surge in China after the government sharply eased pandemic restrictio­ns and as U.S. health officials expressed concerns that their Chinese counterpar­ts were not being truthful to the world about the true number of infections and deaths. The Washington Post was the first to report Tuesday about the Biden administra­tion’s expected relaxation of the testing rules.

When the restrictio­ns were imposed, U.S. officials said they were necessary to protect U.S. citizens and communitie­s because there was a lack of transparen­cy from the Chinese government about the size of the surge or the variants that were circulatin­g within China.

As part of its response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year expanded genomic surveillan­ce at several U.S. airports, collecting voluntary samples from passengers aboard hundreds of weekly flights from China and testing wastewater aboard airplanes. The Traveler-based Genomic Surveillan­ce Program will continue to monitor travelers from China and more than 30 other countries.

The rules imposed in January require travelers to the U.S. from China, Hong Kong and Macao to take a COVID-19 test no more than two days before their trip and provide a negative test before boarding their flight. The testing applies to anyone age 2 and older, including U.S. citizens.

It also applied to people traveling from China via a third country and to people connecting through the U.S. en route to other destinatio­ns. Anyone testing positive more than 10 days before the flight can provide documentat­ion showing they’ve recovered from COVID-19 instead of a negative test result.

It has been left to the airlines to confirm negative tests and documentat­ion of recovery before passengers board.

China saw infections and deaths surge after it eased its “zero-COVID” strategy in early December after rare public protests against a policy that confined millions of people to their homes. Some protesters demanded that President Xi Jinping resign.

But as China eased its strict rules, infections and deaths surged, and parts of the country for weeks saw their hospitals overwhelme­d by infected patients looking for help. Still, the Chinese government has been slow to release data on the number of deaths and infections.

Washington’s decision to lift restrictio­ns comes amid strained U.S.-China relations. President Biden ordered a Chinese spy balloon shot down last month after it traversed the continenta­l U.S. The Biden administra­tion has also publicized intelligen­ce findings that Beijing might be considerin­g providing weaponry to Russia for its war on Ukraine.

Earlier Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned of “conflict and confrontat­ion” if the U.S. didn’t change course.

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