New CDC COVID-19 Test Requirement for Air Passengers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau

In implementing its first new COVID-19 travel restriction in months, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued guidance requiring all persons traveling from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau, to provide a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of COVID-19 recovery within two days of departing for the United States. The policy went into effect January 5, 2023, and applies to airline passengers two years of age or older. The requirement also applies to passengers traveling through Incheon International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport on their way to the United States if they were present in mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau in the prior ten days. The requirement applies to all travelers regardless of nationality or vaccination status, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

The CDC has confirmed a PCR test or an antigen self-test administered and monitored by a telehealth service or a licensed provider and authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or the relevant national authority are sufficient. Any passengers who test positive for COVID-19 more than ten days prior to their departure are permitted to provide documentation of recovery in lieu of a negative test result. They must present a positive COVID-19 test taken more than ten days and less than 91 days before departure, or alternatively a positive COVID test taken within ten days before departure, along with a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or public health official stating the passenger’s COVID-19 symptoms began more than ten days before the date of departure. The airline is responsible for confirming the negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery for all passengers prior to boarding or denying entry to the passenger. If a passenger is transiting or was present in mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau for a period less than 24 hours, they are exempt from the negative COVID-19 test requirement.

The new requirement will remain in effect until it is modified or rescinded by the CDC. The CDC will continue to monitor the progress of the pandemic and travel related to China and may adjust the requirements as needed.

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