U.S. Imposing Covid Test Requirements For Travelers Coming From China, Hong Kong

Now that China is re-opening to travel starting January 8, the U.S. is is imposing testing requirements on arrivals from China, Hong Kong and Macau – effective January 5.

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it will require anyone arriving by air from China to provide a negative Covid test, following a surge of Covid-19 cases across China as Beijing has eased its strict zero-Covid rules.

Under the new rules, which will take effect on Jan. 5, anyone two years and older will need to show a negative result from a test taken within two days of their departure from airports in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, administration officials told reporters in a briefing.

Note that travel and testing requirements have done nothing to protect the U.S. in the first three years of the pandemic. They were didn’t keep out Covid, its surgest, or its variants.

The administration might argue that we don’t have good date on Chinese spread, but that’s equally true – and has been for years – on much of the world. Indeed, there’s little genomic surveillance in the U.S.

We don’t test people going to bars or indoor concerts. People in the U.S. do that with Covid every single day.

What, exactly, are we actually doing to combat Covid, recognizing that people arriving from China represent a very small number of infections and will continue that way even as transpacific travel grows? Are we updating vaccines against a new Chinese variant, expediting their approval, and mobilizing their distribution? Are we distributing high quality N95 masks, teaching people to use them, and requiring their use in all indoor congregant settings?

The U.S. still requires non-residents to show proof of vaccination to enter. To be sure, while vaccines are no longer preventing infection or spread to the same degree as when they were introduced, prior to current variants, there are still more than just personal benefits (of reducing likelihood of severe infection). A vaccinated immune system is likely to respond more quickly to the virus, shortening the duration of infection and thus infectiousness. And a fully boosted individual will be less likely to get and spread the virus, though the effect isn’t as significant as it once was.

However there is no requirement to be boosted, just vaccinated so U.S. policy doesn’t have this argument and simply exists as a result of inertia. Oh, and by the way, Chinese vaccines which are not effective in stopping current variants (and were barely effective against the ancestral Wuhan strain) count as vaccination.

It’s as though we’ve learned nothing in three years, and that’s sad.

This post has been updated as actual details of the policy have been announced.

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