The United States is planning to lift COVID-19 testing requirements on travelers from China as soon as Friday because of a decrease in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in China, three officials familiar with the decision told The Washington Post, requesting anonymity.
As of Wednesday, individuals traveling from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao to the U.S. still had to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases in China and conduct voluntary genomic surveillance at U.S. airports, people familiar with the decisions told The Wall Street Journal.
The order, requiring travelers from China to furnish a negative test result, was implemented by the U.S. on Jan 5. The policy had raised questions of fairness at that time.
"The most important strategy right now is (that) we need to improve our political and diplomatic communication with China," Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University, Atlanta, told The New York Times. He said he feared that the policy of the Biden administration would work "in the opposite direction".
Other countries, such as Japan and South Korea, have similar restrictions on inbound flights from China.
At a news briefing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said 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 make personnel exchanges between China and other nations more convenient," Mao said.
With air travel between the U.S. and China gradually returning to normal, U.S.-based airlines are keen to take advantage of the rapidly rising demand for travel between the two countries by expanding services.
United Airlines has resumed its 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, after China optimized its COVID-19 response measures.
Delta Air Lines has also resumed flights between the two countries, while American Airlines is expected to restart its service later this month, according to leading aviation news website Simple Flying.
There are only 172 flights between the U.S. and China 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 tourists spending $127.5 billion in 2019.