US to require negative Covid tests for travelers from China

The Biden administration, fearing that the rise in coronavirus cases in Beijing could create a new and more deadly variant, announced on Wednesday that it would require travelers from China, including both Hong Kong and Macao, must present negative for Covid-19 test before entering the United States.
The requirement will go into effect January 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which made the announcement. Officials at the agency say they are deeply concerned about China’s lack of transparency about its outbreak – and especially its failure to track and sequence the variants and sub-variants that are under circulate within its borders.
CDC officials said the testing requirement would apply to airline passengers regardless of their nationality and immunization status. It will also apply to travelers from China entering the United States through a third country or those connecting through the United States to other destinations. Italy and Japan have imposed similar restrictions, and India has required negative Covid-19 test reports and random screening at airports for passengers arriving from China, Japan, and South Korea. China, Hong Kong and Thailand.
But as they did when the President Donald Trump imposed travel restrictions during the pandemic, some experts have questioned whether it would be beneficial to require testing — especially given the rising number of cases in some parts of the United States. In the northeast, scientists say the spread of the virus is being fueled by an omicron sub-variant, XBB, that appears to be spreading faster than those associated with the dominant variant in Beijing.
“Politically, I understand why it has to be done, but the bottom line is, it is,” said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of California. a false sense of security when we are actually slowing transmission.” University of Minnesota.
of China Covid The outbreak is getting worse in recent days, with local authorities reporting hundreds of thousands of infections each day. Videos obtained by The New York Times show sick patients crammed into hospital corridors. But the situation is difficult to track in real time because China does not publish reliable Covid data.
The CDC also announced Wednesday that it is expanding its voluntary genomic surveillance program to look for new variants in anonymous swabs taken from international travelers at major US airports, including Los Angeles and Seattle.
Some experts worry that instead of encouraging transparency from China, the policy could make the Chinese even less open.
“The most important strategy right now is that we need to improve our political and diplomatic communication with China,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University. He said he feared that the new Biden administration policy would work “in the opposite direction.”
But Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the Pandemic Center at Brown University’s School of Public Health, said the administration had little choice.
“I think they are trying to put pressure on China to properly uphold its international responsibilities,” she said, adding that the “small agreement” calls on countries to share data. pandemic data “will only be effective if countries call for it”. bad behavior.”
After three years of sticking to a “no Covid” policy, China abruptly changed in early December and lifted that policy, following mass protests against the blockade that threatened the ruling Communist Party. permission. Since then, there has been a significant increase in the number of cases in Beijing.
A major concern among public health officials is that the Chinese people have little natural immunity, allowing the virus to spread rapidly. In contrast, rapid spread creates new opportunities for the virus to grow, posing the risk that new variants could emerge and spread to other parts of the world.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that a more dangerous variant will emerge in China any time soon, scientists say. Over the past year, people in the United States have been infected with episodes of the omicron variant. But since people in China are essentially isolated from those versions of the virus, scientists think any of them could take off there.
“In a sense, whatever comes first is likely to prevail there,” said James Wood, an infectious disease expert at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
Some variation in the past is thought to emerge as the virus mutates during prolonged infection in people with compromised immune systems, suggesting that the extent of transmission in a given place can may not decide on its own the development of new variants.
Jeffrey Shaman, an infectious disease modeler at Columbia University, said: “Despite the argument that the more people become infected, the greater the chance of mutating and developing a new variant. New variants mainly develop during person-to-person transmission or in people with prolonged infection.”


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