On Wednesday, December 28, the United States imposed new regulations for travelers from China to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. China has been experiencing a large wave of infections throughout the country, and the U.S. is restricting travelers to keep the nation safe.
What is the new regulation?
The new policy, which begins January 5, applies to everyone traveling from China, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a negative COVID-19 test result is required for all travelers entering from the People’s Republic of China. “These data are critical to monitor the case surge effectively and decrease the chance for entry of a novel variant of concern."
Some professionals are concerned with the rise of COVID-19 in China and the possibility of a new variant that could cause mutations. “What we want to avoid is having a variant enter into the U.S. and spread like we saw with delta or omicron,” said Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Dr. David Bowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the new guideline could be more about pressuring China to spread more information on the surge and possible variants for people to take precautions. “I don’t think it’s going to have a major impact in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” said Dowdy. “We have a whole lot of transmission of COVID-19 here within our borders already.”
Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, agreed with Dr. Dowdy, adding that China needs to spread more awareness and information about the new possible variant and genomic sequencing to ensure people remain vigilant and protect themselves. He continued that the U.S. also needs to try harder to keep everyone safe, such as through the CDC's volunteer testing at selective airports for new and rare COVID-19 variants. The volunteer program is currently expanding to Seattle and Los Angeles.
With new guidelines beginning January 5, travelers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau will need a negative COVID-19 test no more than two days before travel. They must show a negative test before taking a flight, and the rule applies to everyone over age two, including U.S. citizens. The new rule also applies to those traveling from China from a hold-over country and people from connecting flights. Those testing positive no more than 10 days before the flight can show professional documentation proving their COVID-19 recovery instead of a negative test result. The confirmation of negative COVID-19 tests and documentation of recovery will be specific to the airlines.
Some other countries, including Japan and Malaysia, also announced similar guidelines to prevent the possible variant from spreading globally. “We look forward to welcoming Chinese travelers back to the United States,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement.
This is not a new regulation, as the U.S. required negative SARS-CoV-2 virus tests for some international travelers before the ban was lifted in June by the Biden administration. “We’ve done this before. We can do it again,” Dowdy said.
How many cases of COVID-19 are there in the world?
Since the December 2019 discovery of the virus, there have been approximately 659 million COVID-19 cases worldwide. As of December 2022, there have been more than six million deaths from the virus, and over 13 billion vaccinations have been administered globally. During the pandemic, countries have taken safety measures, including mask mandates and the closure of social gatherings. Some nations have restricted international travel to halt the spread of COVID-19.
To protect yourself and your loved ones from the virus, it is important to follow the health regulations given by your country. COVID-19 vaccinations and antiviral medicines are available. It is important to isolate yourself if you feel sick and prevent going out when you have the virus. Ventilating your home is also important to allow fresh air into your house. You can open windows, change the air conditioning (HVAC) system filters, or use air purifiers to clean your home. Building your immunity is also key to staying healthy, and this can be done by participating in outdoor activities, taking necessary vitamins, and exercising.
If you think you have COVID-19, you can easily get tested with an at-home kit and order free self-tests online in the U.S. Make sure to socially distance yourself to avoid catching the virus and wear a mask whenever in a crowded space.