The US will relax COVID-19 testing requirements for travelers coming from China as soon as Friday, according to a report.
US officials told The Washington Post on Tuesday that the decision to lift negative COVID-test requirements was made because of declining cases of the virus in China.
The officials said the shift was driven by public health priorities and not foreign policy concerns, according to the outlet.
The new rule was reportedly being finalized Tuesday, but national security and health officials will notify US airlines, Chinese diplomats and others before publicly announcing the change.
In January, the US and several other countries implemented negative test requirements for air travelers from China older than 2 amid a surge of coronavirus cases in the communist nation after Beijing abandoned its stringent zero-COVID policies.
The US also hoped the testing rule would pressure the Chinese government to be more transparent with its COVID-19 data after releasing implausible numbers of cases and deaths — criticized by health authorities as too low — in the run-up to ending its lockdown restrictions.
US officials acknowledge that China is still likely undercounting deaths and cases, but believe the data points to a decline in infections, as most of the Chinese population was likely infected during the recent wave.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will still continue its voluntary genomic sequencing program at airports for travelers from China, according to Reuters.
The Genomic Surveillance Program assists health authorities detect early new variants and was expanded in December.
Tensions between China and the US have been elevated since last month’s spy balloon incident — which saw surveillance craft reportedly launched from China’s Hainan Island hover over sensitive US nuclear weapons sites and cross the US mainland before being shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4.
US officials say China has rebuffed calls from Washington since the shoot-down.
In a rare rebuke of US policy, Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday accused the US of leading “containment, encirclement and suppression” efforts against the communist power.
“Western countries — led by the US — have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression against us, bringing unprecedentedly severe challenges to our country’s development,” Xi said in a speech to China’s top political advisory body.
Feathers have also been ruffled in Beijing over reports that top US agencies, including the Department of Energy and the FBI, have concluded that COVID-19 originated from a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan researching bat coronaviruses.
Chinese officials have denied the so-called “lab leak theory,” blasting it as defamatory.