China relaxes some COVID test rules for U.S., other travellers

China has removed some COVID-19 test requirements for people flying in countries such as the United States and shortened the pre-departure quarantine for some inbound travellers, as it fine-tunes its measures to cope with the Omicron variant.The slight relaxations were made in response to factors including the “characteristics of coronavirus variants”, according to notices from Chinese embassies and consulates that did not provide further details.

From Friday, travellers from Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago will no longer need an RT-PCR test seven days before flying, or any antibody test, according to notices issued late on Tuesday from the Chinese embassy in the United States and several consulates.Those travellers will still need to do two RT-PCR tests within 48 or 24 hours of their flights – depending on which airport they are flying out of – plus another pre-flight antigen test, those notices showed.

Travel in and out of China has plunged during outbreaks of COVID as the country insists on its “dynamic COVID zero” playbook that has involved restrictions on the issue and renewal of passports, mandatory quarantines for most travellers upon arrival, and flight cancellations.But the shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant has allowed for a slight easing of curbs on international travellers. The capital city Beijing has reduced the quarantine period at centralised facilities upon arrival for travellers to 10 days from 14 days.

The removal of RT-PCR test seven days before flights and the elimination of antibody tests will apply to travellers to China from Canada starting Sunday, and those who had recovered from COVID infections will no longer need to provide chest scan images, the Chinese embassy in Canada said on Thursday. Embassies in the United Arab Emirates, Serbia and Bangladesh said on Wednesday they had removed some testing requirements and shortened the pre-departure quarantine period for employees at Chinese companies to 10 days from 21 days.

Bangladesh has further reduced the pre-flight quarantine for other travellers to five days from seven days, while Serbia has halved the pre-departure quarantine time for certain personnel to one week, according to embassy notices.