WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is planning to end on Friday a requirement that travelers coming from China present a negative Covid-19 test before entering the United States, according to a person familiar with the plan.
The plan to roll back the restriction comes as a once-enormous viral wave subsides in China, and after other countries have announced their own easing of restrictions for people traveling from China. The administration considered both factors in making the decision, the person said, and will continue monitoring flights from China and other countries to help detect new variants of the virus.
The restriction was put into place two months ago, as the end of China’s “zero Covid” policy prompted a surge of Covid cases in the country — overwhelming hospitals, morgues and crematories.
U.S. officials said at the time that the testing requirement was needed because of China’s lack of transparency about the outbreak. In the absence of credible information from Beijing, scientists had to essentially guess the size and severity of the outbreak that began in December by sifting through social media reports and other unreliable sources of information.
Public health officials were also concerned that the rapid spread of the virus within China could create opportunities for it to evolve, creating new variants that would then spread to other parts of the world. U.S. officials have since collected better information about the surge and the variants circulating in China, the person said.
Some experts had questioned the effectiveness of the testing requirement, as the virus was already surging in parts of the United States at the time, fueled by an Omicron subvariant that was spreading more quickly than the virus variants coming from China. The United States ultimately had a relatively mild winter for Covid cases.
China had denounced the United States and other countries for imposing the restrictions, accusing them of politicizing the coronavirus pandemic. The rollback of the testing requirement comes at a time of increased tensions between the United States and China after the Energy Department concluded, albeit with low confidence and in disagreement with some other federal agencies, that an accidental lab leak most likely caused the coronavirus pandemic.