US President Joe Biden’s administration is lifting its requirement that international air travelers to the US take a COVID-19 test within a day before boarding their flights, easing one of the last remaining government mandates meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
White House Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Munoz confirmed the news on Twitter. An official announcement from the administration was expected on Friday, the AP and Reuters news agencies reported.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will no longer require pre-departure COVID-19 testing for travelers coming to the United States after it determined based on the science and data that this requirement is no longer necessary. CDC will do a reassessment of this decision in 90 days, a senior Biden administration official told the Reuters new agency.
Since December, the CDC has required travelers to test negative within one day before flights to the United States but does not require testing for land border crossings.
The official said, “If there is a need to reinstate a pre-departure testing requirement – including due to a new, concerning variant – CDC will not hesitate to act.”
The mandate expires Sunday at 12:01am EDT (04:01 GMT) as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that it’s no longer necessary, the AP news agency reported, according to an administration official.
US will end Covid-19 testing requirement for air travelers entering the country
@CDCgov will evaluate its need based on the science and in context of circulating variants
— Kevin Munoz (@KMunoz46) June 10, 2022
The Biden administration put in place the testing requirement last year, as it moved away from restrictions that banned nonessential travel from several dozen countries — most of Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India and Iran — and instead focuses on classifying individuals by the risk they pose to others. It came in conjunction with a requirement that foreign, non-immigrant adults traveling to the United States need to be fully vaccinated, with only limited exceptions.
The initial mandate allowed those who were fully vaccinated to show proof of a negative test within three days of travel, while unvaccinated people had to present a test taken within one day of travel.
In November, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant swept the world, the Biden administration toughened the requirement and required all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to test within a day of travel to the US.
Airline and tourism groups have been pressing the administration for months to eliminate the testing requirement, saying it is discouraging people from booking international trips. Many other countries have lifted their testing requirements for fully vaccinated and boosted travelers in a bit to increase tourism.
In February, the groups argued the testing requirement was obsolete because of the high number of Omicron cases already in every state, higher vaccination rates and new treatments for the virus.
American Airlines Chief Executive Robert Isom said last week at a conference that the testing requirements were “nonsensical” and were “depressing” leisure and business travel.
Airlines have said that many Americans are not traveling internationally because of concerns they will test positive and be stranded abroad.
Isom said 75 percent of countries American Airlines serves do not have testing requirements.
“I’m glad CDC suspended the burdensome coronavirus testing requirement for international travelers, and I’ll continue to do all I can to support the strong recovery of our hospitality industry,” Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat, said in a statement.
The lifting of the requirement comes six weeks after a federal judge ended the CDC’s mask requirement for mass transit, including trains, planes, buses and transit hubs, saying the agency exceeded its authority. The Biden administration is appealing that ruling, saying it aims to protect the CDC’s ability to respond to future health emergencies.
The official said the CDC will continue to recommend COVID-19 testing prior to air travel of any kind as a safety precaution.