By Donald Judd and Jack Forrest, CNN
The US is planning to relax Covid-19 testing restrictions for travelers from China as soon as Friday, a source familiar told CNN Tuesday, citing a decline in Covid cases, hospitalizations, and deaths and more data surrounding the variants that were circulating in China.
In December, federal health officials announced that, starting January 5, the US would require all travelers from China to show a negative Covid test result before flying to the country after Beijing’s rapid easing of Covid restrictions led to a surge in cases.
The source said the order was put in place in an effort to protect US citizens following “a large wave of infections in the PRC,” coupled with “a lack of transparency” by Chinese officials surrounding the surge.
The Washington Post was first to report news of the relaxed travel restrictions.
The Biden administration still plans to monitor cases in China and around the world, keeping in place a Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance (TGS) program that surveys travelers on details around new variants.
The testing requirement instated in January came after China dismantled its controversial and long-held zero-Covid policy in early December, catching many in the country by surprise.
US officials expressed concern at the time over the risk of a new variant emerging in China while they had limited insight into the increase in infections.
Tuesday’s announcement also comes after a US Department of Energy assessment that the virus likely emerged from a laboratory accident in China placed further strain on relations between the US and China.
The department’s “low confidence” determination — a minority view among the US intelligence agencies — prompted the Chinese Foreign Ministry to call for the US “to respect science and facts, stop politicizing this issue, stop its intelligence-led, politics-driven origins-tracing.”
China has fiercely denied that the virus emerged from a lab accident but has complicated outside efforts to understand how the pandemic originated.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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CNN’s Simone McCarthy, Arlette Saenz, Kevin Liptak and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.