WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is lifting its requirement that international air travelers to the U.S. take a COVID-19 test the day before boarding their flights, easing one of the last remaining government mandates aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
A senior administration official said Friday that the term will expire on Sunday at 12:01 pm EDT, adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined it is no longer necessary.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to view the formal announcement, said the agency would reassess the need for the testing requirement every 90 days and that it could be reinstated if a new worrisome variant emerges.
The Biden administration implemented the testing requirement last year as it moved away from restrictions that banned non-essential travel from several dozen countries — most of Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India and Iran — and instead In addition, it focused on classifying individuals by the risk they pose to others. It was combined with a requirement that foreign and nonimmigrant adults traveling to the United States must be fully vaccinated, with only limited exceptions.
The initial mandate allowed those who were fully vaccinated to show proof of a negative test within three days of travel, while unvaccinated persons had to present a test taken within one day of travel.
In November, as the highly transmissible 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 travel to the US.
Airlines and tourism groups have been pressing management for months to eliminate the testing requirement, saying it discourages people from booking international travel because they could be stranded abroad if they catch the virus on their travels.
Roger Dow, president of the US Travel Association, called the suspension of the test rule “another big step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States.”
While US domestic travel has returned to almost pre-pandemic levels, international travel – which is very lucrative for airlines – has continued to lag behind. In May, US international air travel remained 24% below 2019 levels, with declines among US and foreign nationals, according to trade group Airlines for America.
Many other countries have suspended their testing requirements for fully vaccinated and boosted travelers in a bid to boost tourism.
In February, travel groups argued that the testing requirement was obsolete due to high numbers of omicron cases already in every state, higher vaccination rates and new treatments for the virus.
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“I am glad that the CDC has lifted the onerous coronavirus testing requirement for international travelers, and I will continue to do everything I can to support the strong recovery of our hospitality industry,” Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said in a statement. affirmation.
The requirement for a negative COVID-19 test before flying to the US dates from January 2021. It is the most visible remaining travel restriction in the US of the pandemic era.
In April, a Florida federal judge overturned the requirement that passengers wear masks on planes and public transportation, saying the CDC had exceeded its authority. The Biden administration is appealing that decision, saying it aims to protect the CDC’s ability to respond to future health emergencies.
Despite ending the testing requirement, the CDC will continue to recommend COVID-19 testing before air travel of any kind as a safety measure, according to the senior administration official.
Travelers have found creative ways to avoid the rule. This spring, several Canadian National Hockey League teams flew to towns near the border and then took buses to the US to avoid the risk of losing players who tested positive.
This story was written by Zeke Miller of the Associated Press. AP Airlines writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.
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how to take the test
Tampa Bay: The Times can help you find the public and free COVID-19 testing locations in the Bay Area.
Florida: The Health Department has web site which lists test locations in the state. Some information may be out of date.
The USA: The Department of Health and Human Services has a web site which can help you find a test site.
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how to get vaccinated
COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5+ and booster shots for eligible recipients are being administered in physicians’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and public vaccination sites. Many allow online appointments. Here’s how to find a site near you:
Find a website: Visit vaccines.gov to find vaccination locations in your zip code.
More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline.
Telephone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.
Disability Information and Access Line: Call 888-677-1199 or email DIAL@n4a.org.
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OMICRON VARIANT: Omicron has changed what we know about COVID. Here’s the latest on how the infectious variant COVID-19 affects masks, vaccines, boosters, and quarantine.
CHILDREN AND VACCINES: Do you have questions about how to vaccinate your child? Here are some answers.
REINFORCEMENT SHOTS: Confused about which COVID booster to get? This guide will help.
REINFORCEMENT QUESTIONS: Are there any side effects? Why do I need this? Here are the answers to your questions.
ELDERLY PROTECTION: See how seniors can protect themselves from the virus.
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