US considering Covid entry restrictions for travelers from China

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The United States is considering Covid entry restrictions for travelers from China, US officials said Tuesday, after Beijing dramatically loosened hardline containment measures this month.

Infections have surged across China as key pillars of its containment policy have been dismantled, prompting US officials to express concern at the potential for new variants to be unleashed.

That potential became even more real Monday when Beijing said it would scrap mandatory Covid quarantine for overseas arrivals from January 8, prompting many in China to rush to plan trips abroad.

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“There are mounting concerns in the international community on the ongoing Covid-19 surges in China and the lack of transparent data, including viral genomic sequence data, being reported from the PRC,” the US officials said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

Beijing authorities have acknowledged the outbreak is “impossible” to track and have done away with much-maligned case tallies, in addition to narrowing the criteria by which Covid fatalities are counted.

But it is the lack of genomic data that has sparked particular concern abroad, making it “increasingly difficult for public health officials to ensure that they will be able to identify any potential new variants and take prompt measures to reduce the spread,” the US officials said.

The United States “is following the science and advice of public health experts, consulting with partners, and considering taking similar steps” to countries such as Japan and Malaysia, which have announced public health measures to counter the spread of Covid from China.

China’s loosening of measures effectively brings the curtain down on a zero-Covid regime of mass testing, lockdowns and long quarantines that has roiled supply chains and buffeted business engagement with the world’s second-largest economy.

Beijing’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that countries should uphold “scientific and appropriate” disease controls that “should not affect normal personnel exchanges.”

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