US to scrap Covid-19 testing requirement for inbound international air travellers

CDC to nix pre-departure measure after determining it is no longer necessary 'based on the science and data'

The US is dropping its requirement for air travellers to test negative for coronavirus before entering the US. Reuters
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The US will drop its requirement for international air travellers to test negative for Covid-19 before entering the country following heavy pressure from airlines and the travel industry, a number of media outlets reported on Friday.

President Joe Biden's administration will announce that the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is nixing its pre-departure international travel testing requirement after determining it is no longer necessary “based on the science and data”, a senior official told Reuters.

The CDC will reassess its decision after 90 days.

“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 official said.

In December, the CDC tightened requirements for inbound international air travellers due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, shortening the timeline for testing from three days to 24 hours before departure.

The requirement led to increased stress and sometimes exorbitant private clinic fees for travellers.

The administration said it would continue to recommend testing before air travel.

Airline executives in recent weeks have said that flyers are avoiding international travel out of fears they would be stranded abroad if they tested positive for Covid-19.

While domestic travel has seen a bump in airline ticket purchases, international travel has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels

American Airlines chief executive Robert Isom said last week that the testing requirements were “nonsensical” and were “depressing” leisure and business travel.

Mr Isom said 75 per cent of countries American Airlines serves do not have testing requirements.

“We're really frustrated and this is something that is damaging not only US travel but it just doesn't make sense,” he said.

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Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: June 20, 2023, 11:00 AM