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US to ease COVID testing rules for travelers from China


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is preparing to relax Restrictions on COVID-19 testing for travelers from China as recently 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 had decided to drop the testing requirements as cases, hospitalizations and deaths in China declined and the U.S. gathered better information about the outbreak.

The restrictions were introduced on December 28 and came into effect on January 5 amid a surge in infections in China after the country dramatically eased pandemic restrictions and when US health officials expressed concern that their Chinese counterparts were not telling the world the truth about the true number of infections and deaths. The Washington Post first reported the administration’s expected move on Tuesday.

At the time, U.S. officials also said the restriction was necessary to protect U.S. citizens and communities because there was no transparency from the Chinese government about the size of the outbreak or the variants being distributed in China.

As part of its response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year expanded genomic surveillance at several U.S. airports, voluntary collection of samples from passengers on board hundreds of weekly flights from China, as well as testing sewage on board aircraft. The Genomic Traveler Surveillance Program will continue to monitor travelers from China and more than 30 other countries.

The rules, introduced in January, require U.S. travelers from China, Hong Kong and Macau to take a COVID-19 test no later than two days before travel and provide a negative test before boarding their flight. Testing applies to everyone 2 years of age and older, including US citizens.

It also applied to people traveling from China via a third country and to people going through the US when they are on their way to other destinations. Anyone who has tested positive more than 10 days prior to their flight can submit documentation that they have recovered from COVID-19 in lieu of a negative test result.

Airlines were instructed to confirm negative tests and documentation of recovery before boarding passengers.

China has seen a surge in infections and deaths after he abandoned his “zero COPD” strategy. in early December after rare public protests against the policy, which has confined millions of people to their homes and sparked protests and calls for President Xi Jinping to step down.

But as strict rules have been eased in China, the number of infections and deaths has increased, and some parts of the country have seen their hospitals run out for weeks crowded with infected patients looking for help. However, the Chinese government was slow to release data on the number of deaths and infections.

The US decision to lift restrictions comes at a time when US-China relations are strained. Biden ordered the downing of a Chinese spy balloon last month after it crossed the continental United States. The Biden administration has also released US intelligence findings that raise concerns that Beijing is considering providing weapons to Russia for its war against Ukraine.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned that Beijing and Washington were headed for “conflict and confrontation” unless the US changed course.

Qin’s comments came a day after Xi said in an unusually sharp speech that “Western countries, led by the United States, have carried out comprehensive containment, encirclement and suppression of China.”

White House officials sought to play down the heated rhetoric from Beijing.

“There is no change in the position of the United States when it comes to this bilateral relationship,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. “The president believes that these tensions obviously need to be acknowledged, but they can be worked with.”


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