USA joins countries requiring pre-flight COVID testing

Grant Boone
January 14, 2021

In an 11pm tweet, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote: 'To give global arrivals time to prepare, passengers will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before departure to England from MONDAY 18 JANUARY at 4am'.

The CDC said US-bound travelers would need to get tested within three days of their flight.

The British government said in a media release on Tuesday, this limited exemption was as a result of challenges in those countries "including limited COVID-19 testing capacity and heightened demand for tests". The new order takes effect in two weeks.

In preparation for travel, passengers will need to find a testing provider which meets the standards set out on by the UK Government, the majority of which will be Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests.

Anyone flying to the U.S. will soon need to show proof of a negative test for Covid-19, health officials have announced.

Many airlines offer optional testing for passengers but mandate it only when destinations require them to do so. "With the USA already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public", the CDC announcement said.

The CDC order applies to USA citizens as well as foreign travelers.

The CDC said it had delayed the introduction of the requirement to allow passengers and airlines to adapt but CDC director Robert Redfield wanted it did not eliminate all risk.

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Officials briefed on the matter said United States public health officials had essentially given up winning approval until president-elect Joe Biden took office.

For the United Kingdom requirement that went through last month, airlines can be subject to criminal penalties if they fail to comply, and passengers can be subject to criminal penalties if they willfully give false or misleading information.

But the new order may stop or diminish spread of other new versions of the virus, like one recently identified in South Africa.

In addition, it has also mandated that passengers, arriving from countries not on the government's travel corridor list, must self-isolate for 10 days regardless of their pre-departure test result.

There are more than 22.7 million coronavirus infections in the US as of January 12, according to Johns Hopkins, and more than 379,000 deaths.

"Since the onset of this crisis, USA airlines have relied on science to help guide decisions as they continuously re-evaluate and update their processes, procedures and protocols", the group said in a statement.

Airlines have been lobbying for preflight testing to replace broad travel restrictions between the US and the rest of the world.

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