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Photo: Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A recent Delta flight from Seattle to Shanghai turned back midair due to new pandemic-related cleaning rules at the Shanghai airport, Delta confirmed Monday.

Driving the news: The new cleaning requirements, which Delta said were issued on Dec. 21, "require significantly extended ground time and are not operationally viable for Delta," the airline said in an emailed statement.

  • It's unclear what the rules are, AP noted. They come as the Chinese government continues to enforce a "zero-COVID" strategy, with tight border and travel restrictions and other measures. The Beijing Winter Olympics are about six weeks away.

What they're saying: "We apologize for any inconvenience this is causing for customers as we continue to work on rebooking on alternate flights," Delta said in a statement.

  • The Chinese Consulate in San Francisco said Sunday that many flights from the U.S. to China have been delayed or canceled, AP reported.
  • The consulate “made a stern representation to the airline,” the statement added without specifically naming Delta, per AP.

The big picture: China Airlines and EVA Air, two Taiwan-based airlines, have reduced the number of flights heading to Shanghai Pudong International Airport citing the new restrictions, according to AP.

Go deeper: Two years of COVID-19

Go deeper

Nov 16, 2021 - World

Olympics sponsors caught between U.S. and China

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies that do business in China — especially Olympics sponsors — are concerned Beijing will use the 2022 Winter Games as a loyalty test.

Why it matters: China's leaders have become adept at silencing criticism from U.S. companies that might otherwise condemn the country's human rights record — and the Chinese government has been able to host prestigious global events like the Olympics while committing rights violations with impunity.

Jan 14, 2022 - Sports

Ultra-strict lockdowns preview what's in store for Beijing Olympics

An outdoor rink in Shenyang, Liaoning Province of China. Photo: Huang Jinkun/VCG via Getty Images

With the Beijing Winter Olympics beginning three weeks from today, ultra-strict lockdowns in Chinese cities provide a glimpse of what the games' protocols will look like.

State of play: China may be the last country on Earth still adhering to a "zero COVID" policy. Rather than relying on vaccines and carefully reopening, China's goal is still to contain the virus via lockdowns.

Dec 6, 2021 - World

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.