The CDC announced today that it is implementing a requirement for a negative COVID-19 test or recovery documentation for air passengers boarding flights to the United States from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau. This includes passengers flying directly to the United States from China and passing through popular third-country gateways, including Seoul, Toronto, and Vancouver. The requirement aims to prevent the spread of Covid and the transmission of any possible new variants. 

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According to federal health officials, passengers flying to the US must get a test no more than two days before flying and present proof of the negative test to their airline before boarding. Contrary to past regulations, the test can either be a PCR or an antigen self-test administered through a telehealth service. 

The new rules take effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on Jan. 5. Reports reflect growing concern around China’s lack of transparency in disclosing their surge in cases, including the absence of genome sequencing information. Withholding this information slows the detection of new coronavirus strains, putting public safety at risk. 

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The execution timeline was selected to give airlines a grace period to fulfill new requirements. New rules are expected to last by the situation on the ground. In addition to this rule, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding the Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance program to airports in Seattle and Los Angeles. 

The sudden end to China’s stringent health policy has raised eyebrows and sparked the rollout of these restrictions. On Monday, China announced it would end quarantine requirements for international arrivals from Jan. 8, marking a significant step toward reopening its borders. The gray area surrounding China’s reports and a surge in cases has also influenced Japan’s decision to test all individuals upon arrival starting Dec. 30.