US lifts COVID-19 testing requirement for international travel – NBC Chicago
The Biden administration is lifting its requirement that international air travelers to the United States take a COVID-19 test within a day before boarding their flights, easing one of the last remaining government mandates meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
A senior administration official said the warrant expires at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Sunday, saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined it is no longer needed. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Friday to preview the official announcement, said the agency would reassess the need for the testing requirement every 90 days and could be reinstated if a troubling new 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, the Brazil, South Africa, India and Iran – and instead focuses on classifying individuals by the risk they pose to others. This was accompanied by a requirement that nonimmigrant foreign adults traveling to the United States be fully immunized, with some exceptions.
The original mandate allowed those who were fully vaccinated to show proof of a negative test within three days of travel, while unvaccinated people had to show a test taken within a day of travel.
In November, as the highly transmissible variant of omicron swept the world, the Biden administration tightened the requirement and demanded that all travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, test themselves within a day of traveling to the United States.
Airlines and tourism groups have been lobbying the administration for months to scrap the testing requirement, saying it discourages people from booking international travel. Many other countries have lifted their testing requirements for fully vaccinated and beefed up travelers a bit to increase tourism.
In February, the groups argued that the testing requirement was outdated due to the high number of omicron cases already in every state, higher vaccination rates and new treatments for the virus.
“I am pleased the CDC has suspended the onerous coronavirus testing requirement for international travelers, and I will continue to do all I can to support the strong recovery of our hospitality industry,” said Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., in a statement.
The lifting of the requirement comes six weeks after a federal judge ended the CDC’s mask requirement for public transportation, including trains, planes, buses and transit centers, saying that the agency had exceeded its authority. The Biden administration is appealing the decision, saying it aims to protect the CDC’s ability to respond to future health emergencies.
The official said the CDC will continue to recommend COVID-19 testing before any air travel as a safety precaution.