February 2, 2023

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CDC – NBC Los Angeles

The United States announced new COVID-19 testing requirements on Wednesday for all travelers from China, joining other countries imposing restrictions due to a surge in infections.

The increase in cases across China comes after the country’s strict anti-virus controls were rolled back. China’s “zero COVID” policies have kept the country’s infection rate down but fueled public frustration and crushed economic growth.

The new US requirements, which start on January 5, apply to travelers regardless of their nationality and vaccination status.

in a Statement explaining the testThe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pointed to an increase in infections and what it said was a lack of adequate and transparent information from China, including the genetic sequence of viral strains circulating in the country.

“This data is important to effectively monitor the increase in cases and reduce the chance of introduction of a new variant of concern,” the CDC said.

Some scientists are concerned An increase in the spread of coronavirus in China could lead to the release of a new type of coronavirus On the world it may or may not be similar to the one in circulation now. That’s because every infection is another chance for the virus to mutate.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in Wuhan, China, as protests against China’s strict coronavirus restrictions spread across the country.

“What we want to avoid is a variant entering the United States and spreading like we saw with Delta or Omicron,” said Matthew Pinker, director of clinical virology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

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The CDC’s action may be less about stopping a new variant from crossing U.S. borders and more about increasing pressure on China to share more information, said Dr. David Daoudy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, adding that he hopes the restrictions will limit “It is not kept for longer than it should be.”

“I don’t think it will have a huge impact in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” said Dodi. “We have a significant number of COVID-19 transmissions here within our borders already.”

Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, agreed that China does not share enough information on genetic sequences. But he also said the United States has become a little complacent with the sequencing and needs to redouble its efforts. The CDC also announced an expansion of an early warning program that tests volunteers at select airports for new and rare types of coronavirus. This program will expand to airports in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Under the new US rules, travelers to the US from China, Hong Kong and Macau will be required to take a COVID-19 test at least two days before travel and present a negative test before boarding their flight. The test applies to anyone 2 years of age or older, including US citizens.

It will apply to people traveling from China via a third country and to people connecting through the United States while traveling to other destinations. Anyone who tested positive more than 10 days before a flight can provide documentation showing they have recovered from COVID-19 in lieu of a negative test result.

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It will be up to airlines to confirm negative tests and document recovery before passengers board.

Other countries have taken similar steps to try to prevent infections from spreading beyond China’s borders. Japan will require a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival of travelers from China, and Malaysia has announced new tracking and monitoring measures. India, Italy, South Korea and Taiwan require virus tests for visitors from China.

The Lunar New Year, which begins on January 22, is usually the busiest travel season in China, and China announced Tuesday that it will resume issuing passports for tourism for the first time since the start of the epidemic in 2020.

“We look forward to welcoming Chinese travelers back to the United States,” Jeff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Travel Association, said in a statement. He described the US approach to testing inbound travelers as “reasonable and appreciative”.

The US action is a return to testing requirements for some international travelers. the The Biden administration lifted the last such authorization in June. At the time, the CDC continued to recommend that people on flights to the United States get tested close to departure time and not travel if they are sick.

“We’ve done this before. Dodi said.

early in the pandemic, The United States banned entry to foreigners traveling from China. Weeks after the virus first appeared there three years ago, dozens more countries have been added to the list. The country began lifting its travel ban late last year, but required travelers to the United States to be vaccinated and tested.

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AP Science contributing writer Laura Ungar contributed.