The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau will need to submit a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test before entering the United States, starting on Jan. 5. The new policy comes amid a surge in Covid cases in China and fears that a new, concerning variant could emerge. China is reporting more than 250 million positive cases in the first 20 days of December.
Under the new rule, travelers older than 2 must submit a negative COVID-19 test taken within two days of departing for the United States. Nationality and vaccination status will not have any bearing on whether a test must be provided. The policy also applies to travelers who have connecting flights in China. Passengers who tested positive 10 days before their flight can provide documented proof of recovery instead of a negative test.
The CDC warned that new variants of the COVID-19 virus are likely to emerge and go unidentified for longer due to China’s reduced testing and case reporting, saying in a press release: “Pre-departure testing and the requirement to show a negative test result has been shown to decrease the number of infected passengers boarding airplanes, and it will help to slow the spread of the virus as we work to identify and understand any potential new variants that may emerge.”
The U.S. State Department issued a level-three travel advisory for China on Dec. 23, urging travelers to reconsider plans to visit the country “due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, arbitrary enforcement of local laws, and COVID-19-related restrictions.”
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