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US will require COVID-19 testing for travelers from China, major cruise line follows suit

The U.S. announced new COVID-19 testing requirements 聽for all travelers from China, joining other nations imposing restrictions because of a surge of infections.

The increase in cases across China follows the rollback of the nation's strict anti-virus controls. China's "zero COVID" policies had kept China's infection rate low but fueled public frustration and crushed economic growth.

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Beginning Jan. 5, all travelers to the U.S. from China will be required to take a COVID-19 test no more than two days before travel and provide a negative test before boarding their flight. The testing applies to anyone 2 years and older.

Other countries have taken similar steps in an effort to keep infections from spreading beyond China's borders. Japan is requiring a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival for travelers from China, and Malaysia announced new tracking and surveillance measures. India, South Korea and Taiwan are requiring virus tests for visitors from China.

Lunar New Year, which begins Jan. 22, is usually China's busiest travel season, and China announced last week聽it will resume issuing passports for tourism for the first time since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

The U.S. action is a return to requirements for some international travelers. The Biden administration lifted the last of such mandates in June. At that time, the CDC continued to recommend that people boarding flights to the U.S. get tested close to departure time and not travel if they are sick.

Early in the pandemic, the U.S. barred entry to foreigners traveling from China, weeks after the virus first emerged there three years ago. Americans were allowed to return home and flights from China were funneled to selected airports where passengers were screened for illness.

But the virus was already spreading in the U.S. among people with no travel history.

Major cruise line operator聽brings back COVID-19 requirements

Cruise line operator Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.聽also said it will implement mandatory pre-cruise COVID testing for passengers who have been in mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau within 10 days of their sailing.聽NCLH operates Norwegian Cruise Line,聽Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

"The health, safety and well-being of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our number one priority," a spokesperson for the company,聽told USA TODAY in an email.聽"As a result of growing concerns regarding COVID-19 in China, and recently implemented travel restrictions by several countries聽including the United States, we are proactively implementing preventative health and safety measures for all sailings embarking between Jan. 5 -聽Jan. 31, 2023."

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Impacted passengers must show proof of a negative PCR test taken within聽48 hours before boarding, and take a PCR test at the embarkation聽port. They will also need to test every 48 hours on board the ship "until at least 10 days have passed from their last time in these regions," the spokesperson said.

Those guests must also be fully vaccinated and boosted, and guests that hold a passport from China, Hong Kong or Macau have to follow聽the same rules, unless they can prove they have not visited聽in the 10 days before boarding.

Norwegian Cruise Line聽previously dropped all remaining testing, vaccine and mask rules in October, though the changes were subject to rules at various destinations.

Contributing:聽Carla K. Johnson,聽The Associated Press