The US is easing Covid testing restrictions for travelers from China starting Friday

(CNN) The US plans to ease Covid-19 testing restrictions for travelers from China from Friday, a well-known source told CNN on Tuesday, citing a decline in Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths and more data on the variants circulating in China.

In December, federal health officials announced that starting January 5, the US would require all travelers from China to show a negative Covid test result before flying to the country, after Beijing’s rapid easing of Covid restrictions led to an increase in the number of cases led.

The source said the order was issued in an effort to protect US citizens following “a major surge in infections in the PRC,” coupled with “a lack of transparency” by Chinese officials surrounding the surge.

The Washington Post was the first to report on the easing of travel restrictions.

The Biden administration still plans to monitor cases in China and around the world, maintaining a traveller-based genomic surveillance (TGS) program that examines travelers for details of new variants.

The testing requirement introduced in January came after China dismantled its controversial and long-held zero-Covid policy in early December, surprising many in the country.

US officials at the time expressed concern about the risk of a new variant emerging in China, while they had only limited insight into the increase in infections.

Tuesday’s announcement also comes on the heels of a US Department of Energy assessment that the virus likely stemmed from a lab accident in China, further straining US-China relations.

The Ministry’s determination of “low confidence” – a minority view among US intelligence agencies – led China’s foreign ministry to call on the US to “respect science and facts, to stop politicizing this issue, to stop trace its intelligence-led, politically-driven origins.”

China has vehemently denied that the virus originated from a laboratory accident, but has hampered external efforts to understand how the pandemic originated.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Simone McCarthy, Arlette Saenz, Kevin Liptak and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.






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