Beginning January 26, the United States is requiring COVID tests for all foreign travelers going to the country. Passengers will need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a plane to the US. The order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also covers all returning American passengers.
The new rules followed lengthy discussions among members of the White House coronavirus task force. In a statement, CDC Director Robert Redfield said that testing doesn’t eliminate all risk. However, it can make air travel much safer. Add other preventive measures such as wearing masks can reduce the risks.
The new rules expand on a previous rule requiring all UK travelers to undergo a COVID test. The UK reported the detection of a new coronavirus strain that is more infectious. The UK strain already managed to get into the country.
Within Three Days of Flying
Travelers need to take the COVID test within three days of their flight schedule. Airlines can now deny boarding to any passenger without a negative test result. However, the CDC ordered exempts airline crew, the military, and passengers below 2 years.
Dr. Martin Cetron, head of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, explained the necessity of imposing new rules. He said “If people are going to ignore the strong admonishments not to travel, we have to make that travel experience as safe and healthy and responsible as possible.’ The recent holidays led to increased air travel all over the country. This contributed to more infections and renewed virus surges. International travel did decrease significantly compared to last year. However, the number of arriving international passengers rose 600% from June to November 2020. The alarming number of cases necessitated the new air travel requirements.
Airlines Support New Rules
US airlines supported the CDC’s new requirements. However, airline groups insist that the new test protocols should work with travel bans from Europe, the UK, and Brazil. Nick Callo, Airlines for America CEO said that “a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place.”
Callo also suggested that the requirement should consider limited testing facilities in some foreign countries. He suggested that in this case, the government should have rapid testing available. Under the CDC rules, airlines can accept PCR and rapid antigen tests.
The US currently enforces a travel ban from specific countries. This includes the U.K., Brazil, China, and selected European nations for non-US travelers. Conversely, Americans cannot travel to banned countries, including the majority of Europe. Travel and health officials criticized the bans as they failed to prevent the spread of the virus. The country hopes that requiring COVID tests for incoming passengers will help reduce the number of cases.
In particular, exempted Americans who traveled to listed countries do not need to undergo mandatory testing or quarantine requirements. “We learned that the opening strategy of banning locations and asking about exposures and doing fever checks just didn’t cut it,” Dr. Cetron said. “We had to pivot.” In addition, the restrictions also reduced flights from banned locations.
Mired in An Outbreak
The United States remains mired in a coronavirus outbreak, registered the highest numbers worldwide. Currently, the country recorded 22.7 million infections and listed a total of 378,457 deaths. Americans remain prohibited from traveling to many countries worldwide, especially in Europe. Federal and state officials have trouble limiting travel and imposing safety measures, as some groups find mandates such as wearing masks a rights issue. A national vaccination program is underway, using FDA-authorized vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna. However, the slow pace of inoculations plus limited vaccine supplies keep the program from running optimally.
What the CBS New York report where the CDC requires all air passengers flying to the US to test negative:
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