US raises COVID-19 testing requirements for international travel

The Biden administration has canceled its requirement that international travelers test negative for COVID-19 within a day before boarding a flight to the United States, ending one of the last remaining government mandates designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

A senior administration official said Friday that the mandate will expire early Sunday morning.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the official announcement, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decided that the test requirement is no longer necessary. The person said the CDC would reassess the problem every 90 days and could reinstate the condition if a worrisome new form of COVID-19 emerges.

Airlines and tourism groups have been lobbying the administration for months to rescind the test requirement, saying it discourages people from booking international flights because they may be stranded abroad if they contract the virus on their trip.

Roger Dow, president of the American Travel Association, described the lifting of the testing rule as “another major step forward for the restoration of domestic air travel and the return of international travel to the United States.”

Martin Ferguson, a spokesperson for Global Business Travel Group Inc. , which advises companies on travel policy, “the entire industry has been waiting for this announcement.”

The airlines argued that the rule was put into effect when few Americans were vaccinated — and now 71% of those adults 5 and older are vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures. Airlines have also complained that people entering the US through land borders are not required to test negative for COVID-19, even though they must show evidence of vaccination.

Robert Isom, chief executive of American Airlines, said last week that the requirement for air travelers “is something that not only hurts US travel, it makes no sense.”

While domestic travel to the US has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, international travel – which is very profitable for airlines – has continued to lag. In May, international air travel in the United States remained 24% below 2019 levels, with declines among U.S. citizens and foreigners, according to American Airlines Business Group.

Many other countries have raised their testing requirements for full vaccination and boosted travelers in an effort to increase tourism.

In February, travel groups argued That test requirement is outdated due to the large number of omicron cases already in each state, high vaccination rates and new treatments for the virus.

“I am pleased that the CDC has suspended onerous coronavirus testing requirements for international travelers, and will continue to do everything in my power to support a strong recovery for our hospitality industry,” Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, said. a permit.

The requirement to test negative for COVID-19 before traveling to the United States dates back to January 2021 and is the most visible remaining U.S. travel restriction of the pandemic era.

In April, a federal judge in Florida overturned a requirement that passengers wear masks on planes and public transportation, saying the Centers for Disease Control has overstepped its authority. The Biden administration is appealing this ruling, saying it is intended to protect the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to respond to future health emergencies.

The Biden administration has established test requirements It has moved away from restrictions that banned non-essential travel from several dozen countries — most of Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India and Iran — to focus instead on classifying individuals by the risks they pose to others. This has been coupled with the requirement that nonimmigrant foreign 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 evidence of a negative test within three days of travel, while those who were not vaccinated were required to submit a test taken within one day of travel.

In November, as a highly transmissible omicron variant Swept the world, the Biden administration tightened the requirements All travelers, regardless of vaccination status, are required to test negative within one day of travel to the United States

Travelers have found creative ways to avoid the norm. This spring, several Canadian teams in the National Hockey League flew to cities near the border, then took buses to the United States. To avoid the risk of losing players who test positive.

Despite ending testing requirements, the CDC will continue to recommend COVID-19 testing prior to air travel of any kind as a safety precaution, according to the senior management official.

US airlines estimate that dropping the test requirement would mean an additional 4.3 million passengers in one year.

However, it is unclear whether airlines can boost flights quickly enough to handle this kind of increase. Airlines facing pilot shortages have already scaled back their original schedules at the height of the summer holiday season.

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Koenig reported from Dallas. AP Medical Reporter Mike Stobbe from New York contributed to this report.

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