The U.S. is reportedly planning to lift COVID-19 testing requirements on travelers from China as soon as Friday because of a decrease in cases in China, according to people familiar with the decision.
Three officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Washington Post that the decision was made as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have decreased in China, the newspaper reported.
As of Wednesday, individuals traveling from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao to the United States still had to provide evidence of a negative COVID test prior to departing. The order was implemented on Jan 5.
The Biden administration will continue to monitor COVID cases in China and conduct voluntary genomic surveillance at U.S. airports, people familiar with the testing reversal told The Wall Street Journal.
The policy toward China raised questions of fairness at the time.
"The most important strategy right now is we need to improve our political and diplomatic communication with China," Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University, told The New York Times. He said he feared that the policy of President Joe Biden's administration would work "in the opposite direction".
Other countries, such as Japan and South Korea, have similar restrictions on inbound flights from China.
When asked about the U.S. acting to ease the restrictions, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said on Wednesday at a news briefing that China always believes that epidemic-control measures adopted by every country should be scientific and appropriate.
"We hope relevant countries will work with China to provide more convenience for personnel exchanges between China and other countries," Mao said.
Meanwhile, U.S.-based airlines are looking to benefit from rising demand following the lifting of travel restrictions.
With air travel between the United States and China returning to normal following the pandemic, American airlines are keen to take advantage of the rapidly rising demand for capacity between the two countries by expanding services.
United Airlines has resumed flights to Shanghai and is planning to expand to other airports in China.
United was the first U.S. airline to resume direct flights between the two countries at the end of January, when COVID-19 travel restrictions by China were lifted.
Delta Air Lines also has resumed flights between the two countries, while American Airlines is expected to restart its service later this month, according to Simple Flying.
The number of flights between the U.S. and China is still limited to 12 per week, and there are only 172 flights scheduled for this month, which is a 94.1 percent decrease compared with the same period in 2019, according to Cirium, a flight-data company, Bloomberg reported.
China was the world's largest outbound tourism market before the pandemic largely shut down global travel, with its overseas visitors spending $127.5 billion on tourism in 2019.