International air passengers trying to enter the US will be required to present a recent negative Covid-19 test, as the country grows increasingly worried about the circulation of new more transmissible variants of the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will require the test result from January 26. After landing, the CDC recommends travellers take a test three to five days later and remain at home for seven days.
Airlines will have to deny boarding to visitors who do not have a negative test result from the previous three days — or documentation that proves they have recovered from the disease.
Robert Redfield, CDC director, said: “Testing does not eliminate all risk 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.”
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The US already has restrictions on travel to and from Europe and China for people who do not hold US passports or green cards. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, called for more restrictions on passengers from the UK, after the B.1.1.7. variant was detected there.
United Airlines said it would work with the federal government to implement the new order.
“As the first airline to offer Covid customer testing, we know it is key to unlocking international borders and safely reopening global travel,” it said. “United already has procedures in place to comply with similar orders for international jurisdictions, and we will plan on expanding those in light of this new mandate.”
American and Delta airlines referred questions to the trade group Airlines for America. The group said in a statement that it “appreciate[d]” the CDC’s new testing regime and encouraged the Trump administration “to move forward with recommendations to concurrently lift existing entry restrictions on travellers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil”.
The new measure is also designed to protect Americans as the population gets vaccinated.
With high levels of vaccine hesitancy, experts anticipate there could always be a significant slice of the US population that remains unvaccinated.
“With the US already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public,” the CDC said in a statement.