Coronavirus Testing Required for China's Visitors

Airline testing for viruses from China travelers
Airline testing for viruses
Vancouver International Airport
China (Vax Before Travel)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that it will implement on January 5, 2023, a requirement for a negative SARS-CoV-2 test or documentation of COVID-19 recovery for air passengers boarding flights to the U.S. originating from the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

The CDC announced this program on December 28, 2022, to slow the spread of COVID-19 during the recent surge in cases in the PRC.

Pre-departure testing and the requirement to show a negative test result has been shown to decrease the number of infected passengers boarding airplanes.

India and Japan initiated a similar screening requirement in late December and confirmed positive results.

Additionally, the CDC issued an Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions notice on December 28, 2022, that stated people should reconsider traveling to China, Hong Kong, and Macau due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.

The CDC stated in a press release it would continue to monitor the situation and adjust its approach as necessary.

Once launched in 2023, all air passengers two years and older originating from the PRC will be required to get a test (such as a PCR test or an antigen self-test administered and monitored by a telehealth service or a licensed provider and authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the relevant national authority) no more than two days before their departure from the PRC, Hong Kong, or Macau, and show a negative test result to the airline upon departure.

The requirement applies to these air passengers regardless of nationality and vaccination status.

This will also apply to persons traveling from the PRC via third-country transit and passengers connecting through the United States onward to further destinations.

Along with applying this requirement to direct flights from the PRC, passengers transiting Incheon International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport on their way to the U.S. will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test if they have been in the PRC in the last ten days no more than two days before their departure to the U.S.

These three transit hubs cover the overwhelming majority of passengers with travel originating in the PRC and the Special Administrative Regions.

Passengers who tested positive more than ten days before the flight can provide documentation of recovery from COVID-19 instead of a negative test result.

Airlines must confirm the negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery for all passengers before they board or deny boarding to the passenger.

The CDC also announced expanding the Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance program (TGS). This voluntary program serves as an early warning system to detect and characterize new and rare variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.  

The TGS collects anonymous nasal swabs from arriving international travelers on selected flights at major U.S. international airports.

The program tests for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and if it is detected, the program sequences the virus's genome to identify any new variants.

The program is expanding by adding additional airports (Los Angeles and Seattle)—bringing the total number of airports to seven and the number of weekly flights covered to approximately 500 from at least 30 countries across all World Health Organization regions. 

This includes approximately 290 weekly flights from PRC and surrounding areas.

TGS has overcome global SARS-CoV-2 variant surveillance gaps as many countries decrease or discontinue testing and sequencing.

During the initial weeks of the Omicron surge, TGS detected two Omicron subvariants, BA.2 and BA.3, and reported them to the global database weeks before they were reported elsewhere, demonstrating that the program can detect variants early.

'Our new testing policy, along with the expansion of TGS, will help to protect travelers and the health and safety of American communities,' wrote the CDC.

CDC also continues to work with WHO and partner countries to enhance sequencing capacity and improve the global ability to detect new variants.

This new CDC order will become effective on January 5, 2023, at 12:01 AM ET.

The U.S. FDA has approved various COVID-19 vaccines that meet this new CDC requirement. For a list of authorized tests, check this link.

Article by
Donald Hackett