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U.S. drops COVID testing for incoming international air travelers

Published 06/10/2022, 09:50 AM
Updated 06/11/2022, 12:10 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Travelers wearing protective face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) reclaim their luggage at the airport in Denver, Colorado, U.S., November 24, 2020.  REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States late Friday rescinded a 17-month-old requirement that people arriving in the country by air test negative for COVID-19, a move that follows intense lobbying by airlines and the travel industry.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky issued a four-page order lifting the mandate, effective at 12:01 a.m. ET (0400 GMT) Sunday, saying it is "not currently necessary."

The requirement had been one of the last major U.S. COVID-19 travel requirements. Its end comes as the summer travel season kicks off, and airlines were already preparing for record demand. Airlines have said that many Americans have not been not traveling internationally because of concerns they will test positive and be stranded abroad.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said the CDC decision is based on science and available data, and said the agency "will not hesitate to reinstate a pre-departure testing requirement, if needed later."

The CDC will reassess the decision in 90 days, an administration official said.

The United States has required incoming international air travelers to provide pre-departure negative tests since January 2021. In December the CDC tightened the rule to require travelers to test negative within one day before flights to the United States rather than three days.

The CDC has not required testing for land border crossings.

Many countries in Europe and elsewhere have already dropped testing requirements.

The CDC is still requiring most non-U.S. citizens to be vaccinated against COVID to travel to the United States.

Two officials told Reuters the Biden administration had considered lifting the testing rule only for vaccinated travelers.

JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ:JBLU) Chief Executive Robin Hayes told Reuters on Friday that the testing requirement was "the last obstacle to a really full international travel recovery," saying that it "served no purpose anymore."

IATA, the world's biggest airline trade group, said it was "great news" that the administration is "removing the ineffective pre-departure COVID test for travel to the US."

In April, a federal judge declared the CDC's requirements that travelers wear masks on airplanes and in transit hubs like airports unlawful and the Biden administration stopped enforcing it. The Justice Department has appealed the order, but no decision is likely before fall at the earliest.

The CDC continues to recommend travelers wear masks and get COVID-19 tests before and after international flights.

Raymond James said in a research note that lifting the restrictions "is an important catalyst for international travel."

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An American Airlines Boeing 777 plane takes off from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy-en-France near Paris, France, December 2, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo

Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) Chief Executive Ed Bastian told Reuters last week that dropping the requirements will boost travel, noting that 44 of 50 countries Delta serves do not require testing.

U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said Friday's move will "accelerate the recovery of the U.S. travel industry," which was hard hit by the pandemic.

Latest comments

Funny how everyone wants to travel after 3 years of government lockdowns Probably the lockdowns are the reason behind the US mass murder situations. When will the EXPERTS tie it together?
cases on the rise in New Mexico
And nobody cares because nobody gets ill
Good Stay in New Mexico- nobody is going there this summer. Take ivermectin. Super cheap. Stay away from the hot spots.
science said 10 years ago due to ozone depletion we'd all be covered in leprous melanoma cancer by now. but were not, are we?
Because competent adults examined the science and successfully implemented a worldwide reduction in the substances that were causing the depleted ozone. The ozone layer recovered, just as the scientist predicted, you anti intellectual *******for brains know-nothing.
How much in greasy campaign contributions did that cost airlines & their stockholders?
Must be an election year!
Following the science…
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