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    China to Require Negative COVID-19 Tests for All Inbound Travelers

    Some wonder whether the policy, aimed at curbing imported infections, is practical for countries where tests are slow and access to them is restricted.

    Air passengers traveling to China will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result from no more than five days before their departure date to “reduce the risk of cross-border transmission,” according to an announcement jointly issued Tuesday by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, General Administration of Customs, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    The rule will apply to both Chinese citizens and the few foreign nationals who have been cleared to enter the country on diplomatic, service, “courtesy,” and crew visas. Other foreigners — including tourists and people with still-valid work permits — have not been allowed into China since a travel ban was instituted in late March.

    “The tests should be conducted at institutions designated or approved by Chinese embassies abroad,” the announcement said. While stopping short of giving examples of such institutions, it said Chinese embassies would consider the testing capabilities of foreign countries and release further details later.

    The mandatory policy has sparked concerns among some online, who noted that COVID-19 tests may not be readily accessible to healthy travelers, depending on where they’re based. And some Chinese people stranded abroad say it will now be even harder for them to return home, after China in June decided to reduce flight frequency and penalize airlines whose passengers test positive for the coronavirus.

    “Please consider the enforceability of the policy. In many countries, people without symptoms can’t qualify to be tested, and the test result might not be ready within five days,” one netizen commented on microblogging platform Weibo under a related post. Earlier this month, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms made headlines for having to wait eight days for a positive coronavirus test result.

    As of Tuesday, China has recorded over 2,000 total imported cases of COVID-19. Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, people arriving from abroad were required to submit to testing upon arrival, as well as 14 days’ quarantine.

    Editor: David Paulk.

    (Header image: Travelers wearing face masks and personal protective equipment wait in a pre-departure lounge at Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima, Peru, July 15, 2020. Raúl Sifuentes/Getty Images/People Visual)