Airline travelers to U.S. must pass COVID-19 tests under new rule effective Jan. 26
The U.S. will require proof of a negative COVID-19 test before allowing people to fly into the country from other nations in an effort to help airlines regain at least some of their most lucrative international travel — a rule that airlines had lobbied for.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday that it approved the new anti-pandemic measure, which will take effect Jan. 26 and apply to U.S. citizens and non-citizens.
It requires travelers to be tested within three days before leaving for the U.S. and to provide written documentation of a negative result. Airlines must confirm the information before allowing passengers to board, the CDC said in the statement.
“Testing does not eliminate all risk,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said, “but when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations.”
The COVID-19 death of an airline passenger, and pilots’ and flight attendants’ complaints about other incidents, illustrate deficiencies in the systems meant to stop people from bringing the coronavirus on flights.
The rules build on a federal mandate that began Dec. 28 requiring negative tests for passengers flying to the U.S. from Britain after the discovery of a new variant of the virus that spreads more rapidly. Comprehensive testing would potentially help revive demand for trips between the U.S. and other nations, which have been stalled at less than a quarter of 2019 levels because of virus fears and government travel restrictions.
The new standard would apparently replace a broader ban on entry for most non-U.S. citizens traveling from 28 European nations that was imposed by the Department of Homeland Security after a presidential proclamation March 11. The department directed questions on the matter to the CDC.
The trade group representing large U.S. carriers, Airlines for America, wrote to Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 4 to support such a testing requirement, saying it would promote essential economic activity while also protecting people’s safety.
“We believe a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place,” the group said.
Some of the most lucrative airline routes to Europe have been among the most severely hit by the pandemic. Passengers aboard U.S. carriers on transatlantic flights fell more than 85% in the last week compared with the same period last year, according to Airlines for America data.
Canada said Dec. 30 that it would require air travelers entering the country to obtain a negative test.
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