Beginning on January 26th, all international travelers entering the United States will need proof of a negative COVID-19 test result.
Travelers entering the United States will need to show proof of a test taken within three days of departure and written confirmation that the test result came back negative. The rule is the same regardless of whether someone has received the vaccine or not, due to expert advice that says those who get the vaccine could still potentially transmit the virus. Doctor Robert R. Redfield, director of the CDC, told the New York Times that even though “testing does not eliminate all risk…when combined with a period of staying home and everyday precautions like wearing a mask it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations.
This development is an expansion on an earlier rule implemented in December that stated those coming from Great Britain would need the same documentation after the country’s surge and the discovery of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus. This variant was later found in multiple American states, and officials say it has likely already spread more widely than we think. The White House had already been debating expanding travel restrictions for weeks.
Major airlines supported the measure, as they have been pushing for a testing program because of the severe drop in international travel. USA Today reports that airlines especially want the requirements because with them they can fly more business travelers, who they rely on for a significant portion of their profits. The trade group for the airline industry, Airlines for America, sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence that asked the administration to “implement a global program to require rapid testing to the United States.” The group has also been calling for the elimination of entry restrictions on European, British, and Brazilian travelers in the wake of new testing requirements. “These entry restrictions should be removed concurrently with the testing program, which will provide yet another layer of safety in the travel journey,” wrote CEO Nicholas Calio. However, the CDC has not yet commented on whether or not these restrictions will be reconsidered.
United Airlines was happy with the new regulations and said that testing is “key to unlocking international borders.” They also said that they are “actively working to introduce new technologies and processes to make navigating these testing requirements easier both for our employees and our customers.” Airlines have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Last year, there were over 51 thousand flights in February. There are only 29 thousand scheduled for February 2021.