The US will drop COVID testing for incoming international air travelers

The United States will from Sunday drop a 17-month-old requirement that people arriving in the country by air test negative for the COVID-19 virus, an official said, in a move that comes after intense lobbying from airlines. and the travel industry.

An official announcement will be made later on Friday. The move comes as the busy summer travel season begins, and airlines were already preparing for record demand. Airlines said many Americans are not traveling internationally due to fears that they will test positive and be stranded abroad.

The official, who declined to be named, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that science and data show pre-departure COVID tests are no longer necessary.

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The measure will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, the official said, and the CDC will re-evaluate the decision within 90 days.

The US has required incoming international air travelers to submit negative pre-departure tests since January 2021. In December, the CDC tightened rules to require travelers to test negative within one day before flights to the US instead of three days.

The CDC has not requested testing for land border crossings.

“If there is a need to reinstate the pre-departure test requirement — including because of a new variant on the variant — the CDC will not hesitate to act,” the official said.

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

The CDC continues to require most non-US citizens to be vaccinated against COVID for travel to the United States.

Two officials told Reuters the administration is considering lifting testing rules only for vaccinated travelers.

“Lifting this policy will help encourage and restore air travel to the United States,” said Airlines for America, a trade group that represents major airlines.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the world’s largest airline trade group, welcomed what it called the “good news” that the administration was “removing ineffective pre-departure COVID testing for travel to the United States.”

In April, a federal judge declared the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) requirement that travelers wear masks on planes and in transit centers such as airports illegal and the department stopped implementing it. The Justice Department has appealed the matter, but it is unlikely that a decision will be made before the fall at the earliest.

“illogical”

American Airlines (AAL.O) CEO Robert Isom said last week at a conference that testing requirements were “unreasonable” and affect leisure and business travel.

Several lawmakers have lobbied the Biden administration to raise testing rules, and recently contacted top White House officials to make the case.

“I am pleased that the CDC has suspended the burdensome coronavirus testing requirement for international travelers,” Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto said.

Lifting the restrictions “is an important incentive for international travel,” Raymond James said in a research note.

The removal of the requirements will boost travel, CEO of Delta Airlines (DAL.N), Ed Bastian, told Reuters last week, noting that 44 of the 50 countries served by Delta do not require testing.

American Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said Friday’s move would “accelerate the recovery of the US travel industry,” which has been hit hard by the pandemic.

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(Reporting by David Shepardson) Editing by Shizuo Nomiyama, Mark Porter and Frances Kerry

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