Travel

US waives COVID testing requirements for international travel

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is lifting its requirement that international air passengers in the US be tested for COVID-19 the day before boarding a flight, weakening one of the last remaining government mandates meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

A senior administration official said Friday the mandate expires Sunday at 00:01 EST, adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined it is no longer needed.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to preview the official announcement, said the agency will review the need for testing every 90 days and that it could be reinstated if a new worrying option emerges.

The Biden administration introduced the testing requirement last year as it moved away from restrictions barring non-essential travel from a few dozen countries — most of Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India and Iran — and instead focused on classifying people according to the danger they they represent to others. This was due to the requirement that adult non-immigrant foreigners traveling to the United States must be fully vaccinated, with a few exceptions.

The original mandate allowed those who were fully vaccinated to present a negative test result within three days of travel, while unvaccinated individuals had to present a test taken within one day of travel.

In November, as the highly contagious omicron variant swept the world, the Biden administration tightened the requirement and required all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to be tested within a day of traveling to the US.

Airlines and travel groups have been pushing for months for the administration to lift the testing requirement, saying it discourages people from booking international travel because they could end up abroad if they contract the virus during their trip.

Roger Doe, president of the US Travel Association, called the removal of the testing rule “another huge step forward for the restoration of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States.”

While US domestic travel has returned to near pre-pandemic levels, international travel, which is highly profitable for airlines, continues to lag behind. U.S. international air travel remained 24% below 2019 levels in May, with both U.S. and foreign nationals declining, according to the trade group Airlines for America.

Many other countries have raised their testing requirements for fully vaccinated and boosted travelers in a bid to increase tourist numbers.

In February, tour groups argued that the testing requirement was obsolete due to the high number of omicron cases in each state, higher vaccination rates and new treatments for the virus.

“I am pleased that the CDC has suspended the burdensome coronavirus testing requirement for international travelers, and I will continue to do everything I can to support a strong recovery in our hospitality industry,” the senator said. Katherine Cortez Masto…

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