All passengers arriving in the U.S. now require proof of negative COVID-19 test

Posted: 19 January 2021 | | No comments yet

As of 26 January 2021, the CDC will require all passengers entering the U.S. to provide proof of their negative COVID-19 test result or provide documentation of having recovered from the virus.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expanding the requirement for proof of a negative COVID-19 test to all air passengers entering the United States. Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19. This strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more efficiently protects the health of Americans.

Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants. With the U.S. already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help to slow the spread of the virus as the CDC works to vaccinate the American public.

Before departure to the United States, a required test, combined with the CDC recommendations to get tested again three to five days after arrival and stay home for seven days post-travel, will help to slow the spread of COVID-19 within U.S. communities from travel-related infections. Pre-departure testing with results known and acted upon before travel begins will help to identify infected travellers before they board airplanes.

Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the three days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19.

Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.

“Testing does not eliminate all risk,” says the CDC’s Director, Robert R. Redfield, MD. “But, when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports and at destinations.”

This order was signed by the CDC Director on 12 January 2021 and will become effective on 26 January 2021.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed the announcement. “Systematic pre-departure testing is key to giving governments the confidence to reopen markets without quarantine. Testing will ensure that, at current infection levels, aviation will not become a meaningful vector of new transmissions in the U.S. Furthermore, IATA traveller surveys show that passengers strongly support and are willing to undergo testing,” said Douglas Lavin, IATA’s Vice President of Member and External Relations, North America.

IATA is encouraged by the flexibility shown by CDC in this order, in terms of accepting both antigen and PCR testing and in providing passengers who have already had COVID-19 the ability to demonstrate that they are immune. 

“As the efficacy of testing is confirmed, we need to move quickly to next steps – lifting travel restrictions, which prevent travel from Europe and other key markets, and removing quarantine requirements imposed by state and local governments in the U.S.,” said Lavin.

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