The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it would be implementing a new COVID-19 testing policy for people traveling to the US from China. This move comes as Beijing has begun rescinding its overly strict policies requiring residents to remain quarantined. America has become the latest nation to impose such a program on China as it continues to battle the pandemic after India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
The White House’s China Requirements
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) policy applies to anyone traveling from China directly or indirectly, as well as Macau and Hong Kong. These individuals will have to obtain a negative COVID-19 test no more than two days before embarking for the United States. The order will take effect on Jan. 5 so that airlines will have time to implement it.
This move is intended to slow down the spread of the coronavirus in the US because of “the lack of adequate and transparent epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data being reported.” Fox News reported:
“Federal health officials, in a call with reporters, said the policy came as China is rolling back its ‘zero COVID’ policies and there is already a significant increase in cases – as well as a lack of adequate and transparent sequencing data. Officials suspect there will be a lot of transmission very quickly due to a lack of immunity among people living in China.”
White House officials indicated that they would be expanding the Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance (TGS) program, which involves collecting anonymous nasal swabs from other international travelers to identify new variants of the coronavirus. This will happen at airports in Seattle and Los Angeles.
Will It Work?
The CDC seems to believe this move will prevent COVID cases from rising in the US, but some are casting doubt on this idea after the surge in infections in the northeast. The increase is due to the new XBB Covid variant which is spreading faster than the ones affecting China.
Michael T. Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told The New York Times: “I understand politically why it must be done, but the bottom line is, it’s a false sense of security that we’re really slowing transmission.”
The COVID-19 situation in China has been getting steadily worse over the past few weeks, with localities reporting hundreds of thousands of new infections daily. However, tracking the cases has been challenging because Beijing has refused to release reliable data.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had been imposing draconian lockdown orders as part of its “zero COVID” policy. However, the government began rolling back some of these measures in December in response to protests and unrest occurring in some of its cities.
With China continuing to deal with rising COVID rates, the Biden administration might keep this order in place for the foreseeable future. But if Osterholm is accurate, it won’t do much to prevent a rise in cases in the United States. It is possible that this is simply a precaution, but it is equally as likely that the White House is simply trying to give the appearance that the administration is taking the matter seriously. The optics will matter going forward if more Americans are infected with the virus.
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