Last week, major U.S. airlines announced that they will implement a voluntary contact tracing information program in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Travelers arriving from abroad that agree to provide their information to American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, United, and other carriers will have their details relayed to the CDC to improve COVID-19 contact tracing.
Ultimately, the goal is to track the spread of the coronavirus and limit outbreaks. Contact tracing is one of the best means of controlling COVID-19 and flattening the curve.
The news comes after nearly a year of unenforced regulations that would have required airlines to collect key data from international passengers for electronic submission to Customers and Border Protection (CBP). Though airlines commented it could be difficult to obtain such data, especially from travelers that book through third party providers, they supported the creation of a website and mobile app to facilitate the contact tracing process.
What kind of contact tracing information will passengers be requested to provide? Though it's yet to be confirmed, the list most likely includes a legal name, phone number(s), email address, and physical address of where the person will be staying while in the United States.
The initiative counts on the support from the Airlines for America trade association. Its CEO Nicholas E. Calio said in a statement: "The implementation of a contact tracing program for international passengers is yet another measure in our multilayered approach to mitigate risk and assure the traveling public that both U.S. airlines and the federal government are prioritizing the health and safety of passengers and crew."
In January, United States President Joe Biden reinstated a ban on nearly all non-U.S. travelers who have recently been in Brazil, the U.K., Ireland, and 26 European countries that allow travel across open borders that former president Trump had sought to end. South Africa was also added to the list as spread of new coronavirus variants were reported in that country. The CDC has not yet indicated if or when they will eliminate these entry restrictions.
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