US Ends Covid Test Requirement For International Travel

The Biden administration is removing the requirement that all travelers test negative for coronavirus before flying to the United States, citing pressure from airlines who saw the requirement as overly burdensome and blamed it for stifling ticket sales.

According to a senior administration official who requested anonymity to detail the plan before it was formally announced, the change will take effect just after midnight on June 12 and will be reassessed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 90 days.

International travelers flying to the United States are currently required to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within one day of their departure flight. With a few exceptions, foreign nationals will still need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus before entering the country.

If a new, dangerous strain of the virus emerges, the health agency may decide to reinstate the requirement, according to the official. The administration will continue to recommend testing before flying, but believes that new treatments and coronavirus vaccines have made it possible to relax the requirement.

According to biosecurity expert Eric Toner, the move is unlikely to significantly increase the risk of coronavirus spreading in the United States, though travelers should still wear masks when flying to reduce the risk of transmission.

On the news, airline stocks rose briefly, with an S&P index of carriers rising less than 1% Friday morning before turning negative amid a broader equities slump.

In recent weeks, top airline executives have stated that passengers are concerned about the risk of booking international flights only to be stranded in foreign countries. While domestic airline ticket sales have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, international travel has not.

In remarks at an industry conference last week, American Chief Executive Officer Robert Isom called the rule “nonsensical,” saying it was depressing both business and leisure travel.

According to the US Travel Association, eliminating the requirement could result in an additional 5.4 million visitors to the US and $9 billion in travel spending for the rest of the year.

The travel and tourism industry has historically supported one out of every 20 jobs in the United States, generating $1.9 trillion in economic activity in 2019, according to a fact sheet released by the Commerce Department this week.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the industry. Even with a partial recovery, international visitor spending in 2021 was only 34% of pre-pandemic levels ($81 billion), according to the Commerce Department.

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