The White House is preparing to relax its Covid testing restrictions on travelers from China. According to reports that announcement could be made as soon as Friday.
In late December the Biden Administration announced that starting January 5, it would require every traveler from China over age 2 present a negative Covid-19 test result before flying to the U.S. It has been left up to the airlines to confirm negative test results before passengers boarded.
That new requirement coincided with rising concerns after China had eased its formerly draconian zero Covid policy amid a surge of new cases.
In fact, the U.S. was just one of a growing list of nations at the time that imposed the testing mandate upon travelers from China, including Japan, Australia, Canada and several European countries. China retorted by asserting that the measures were excessive and “lack scientific basis.”
The new pullback on testing comes even as China’s government has been slow to release data on Covid-related deaths and infections.
As part of the U.S. response to China’s Covid surge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded its genomic surveillance at America’s airports, collecting voluntary samples from passengers aboard hundreds of flights from China. The CDC also tested the water onboard the planes.
The CDC’s Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance Program will continue to monitor travelers from China as well as 30 other countries.
The testing relaxation comes at a time of heightened tension between the U.S. and China, following the Pentagon’s downing of a Chinese spy balloon over South Carolinian waters after it had crossed the continental U.S., as well as increased U.S. military postures in Taiwan and Japan.
Chinese officials, meanwhile, have been meeting with Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin. Despite China’s official neutrality regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, “We have information that gives us concern that [the Chinese] are considering providing lethal support to Russia.”
On Tuesday, China’s Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, warned that Beijing and Washington were headed for “conflict and confrontation” if the U.S. doesn’t change course.