Jan. 3, 2023

In a call with U.S. airlines and aviation industry groups, including NBAA, representatives with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) joined with officials from the Department of Homeland Security and FAA to clarify new testing requirements for those traveling by air from China and its territories.

Effective Jan. 5 at 12:01 a.m. (EST), all air passengers ages 2 and older, originating from China on flights to the U.S., will require proof of a negative COVID-19 test no more than two days prior to their departure from China, Hong Kong or Macau, regardless of nationality or vaccination status.

Review the CDC requirements.

Lisa Rotz, acting director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at CDC, emphasized the testing requirement is necessary due to “a veritable explosion in cases and transmission” of COVID-19 following China’s easing of its “zero-COVID” quarantine policy after nearly three years.

“[China] hasn’t experienced the same transmission within their population as most everywhere else has, so there’s a great number of people [lacking] underlying immunity from previous COVID infection or full vaccinations, including boosters,” she said.

In addition to direct flights from China, the testing requirement applies to passengers flying back from China to the U.S. through the three most common transiting airports: Incheon International Airport (ICN), Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) and Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

Approved tests include PCR tests, or antigen self-tests administered and monitored by a telehealth provider. Passengers who tested positive more than 10 days before the flight can provide documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in lieu of a negative test result.

Operators must confirm test results or documentation of recovery for all passengers prior to boarding, and deny boarding to those lacking either requirement.

In addition to halting further spread of COVID-19, Rotz said the pre-departure testing requirement measure also is intended to reduce the risk of introducing new strains or variants of COVID-19 outside China.

To that end, the CDC will also expand its Traveler Genomic Surveillance program, a voluntary program to detect and characterize new and rare COVID variants via the collection of anonymous nasal swabs from arriving international travelers on selected flights at major U.S. international airports.

While further requirements may be added if needed, CDC emphasized the new testing requirement mirrors previous measures in place during the pandemic and should not cause undue burden on air carriers.