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FirstFT: New Covid restrictions on travellers from China

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The US said it would require negative Covid-19 tests for air passengers travelling from China as countries rushed to impose restrictions after the abrupt end of Beijing’s zero-Covid containment policy resulted in a surge in cases.

Washington’s move on Wednesday came just hours after Italy announced it will test all air passengers arriving from China for the virus, becoming the first western country to set new rules following the jump in infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that from January 5, travellers boarding flights to the US from China, Hong Kong and Macau would need a negative Covid-19 test or proof they had recovered from a previous infection. The requirements also apply to passengers arriving in the US via a third country and to those connecting to other destinations through the US.

The new measures are intended to “slow the spread” of the virus in the US following the surge in China and are being implemented because of “the lack of adequate and transparent epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data being reported from” Beijing, the CDC said in a statement.

The Chinese embassy in the US did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

1. China’s elite hoard Paxlovid as demand soars China’s elites are stockpiling supplies of Paxlovid, Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral drug, and giving it away to curry favour with business associates as an unprecedented Covid wave leaves hospitals stripped of resources and ordinary people struggling to access medication. Multiple public and private hospitals told the FT that the drug was either out of stock or that its use was being severely restricted.

  • First person: Having dodged the virus for nearly three years, it was ironically in Beijing — Xi’s zero-Covid citadel — that it finally caught up with me, Asia editor Joe Leahy writes.

2. Exxon sues EU to block new windfall tax on oil companies ExxonMobil is suing the EU in a bid to force it to scrap the bloc’s new windfall tax on oil groups, arguing Brussels exceeded its legal authority by imposing the levy. The lawsuit is the most significant response yet against the tax from the oil industry, which has been targeted by western governments amid a surge in energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

3. Wall Street stocks slip as Hong Kong-listed shares climb US stocks fell on Wednesday, all but erasing hopes of a festive rally to end a dire year for equities, though Hong Kong-listed shares climbed as China eased its zero-Covid restrictions. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 was down 0.66 per cent by mid-afternoon, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite was down 0.8 per cent.

What else we’re reading

Sri Lanka farmers count the cost of government fertiliser ban For centuries, Sri Lanka has been renowned for its vast and varied produce, its fertile soil fostering everything from cinnamon and black pepper to fruits and fragrant teas. But over the past 18 months, the country has become a cautionary tale for global agriculture.

Three ways Big Tech got it wrong It’s time to unlearn the lessons of Big Tech, writes Brooke Masters. For 20 years, the Silicon Valley giants and their peers have set the standard for corporate success with a simple set of strategies: innovate rapidly and splash out to woo customers. But those days are over.

Race is on to develop new generation of weight-loss drugs Changing attitudes, surging demand and tight supply for a new class of obesity drugs has sparked a race to develop medications for a market projected to be worth $50bn in annual revenues by the end of the decade. More than four in 10 American adults are clinically obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Is a game-changer on the way?

Most popular FT world news story: US scientists make fusion energy breakthrough

As the year reaches its close, we are sharing some of our most-read stories across different sections of the FT. Today we highlight our most read world news story.

Earlier this month, US government scientists made a breakthrough in the pursuit of limitless, zero-carbon power by achieving a net energy gain in a fusion reaction for the first time. FT’s Tom Wilson was first to break the story.

Thanks to readers who took yesterday’s poll. Fifty-nine per cent of respondents said they feel they are more productive at home than in the office.

Take a break from the news

The past 12 months have brought outstanding cinematic debuts by women, a Tom Cruise megahit and dissident voices from Russia and Iran. In the world of film, 2022 was a year of comebacks, flops and arrests. Explore FT critic Danny Leigh’s top 10 films of the year.

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Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime Editor