Last week, the United States announced that people arriving in the country by air would no longer be required to test negative for COVID-19.
The news was announced via a four-page order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which went into effect on June 12 after being deemed “not currently necessary” by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. An administration official said that the CDC will reassess the decision in 90 days.
The mandate – which went into effect in January 2021 – was one of the last major COVID-19 travel requirements in the United States. Its end comes as the peak summer travel season kicks off and airlines prepare for record demand. According to the airlines, many Americans have avoided traveling abroad due to concerns they’d test positive and end up stranded outside the country.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said the CDC decision is based on science and available data, adding that the agency “will not hesitate to reinstate a pre-departure testing requirement, if needed later.” The CDC continues to recommend travelers wear masks and get COVID-19 tests before and after international flights.
The mandate only applied to incoming international air travelers; the CDC does not require testing for people crossing land borders.
Speaking to Reuters, JetBlue Airways Chief Executive Robin Hayes said that the testing requirement was “the last obstacle to a really full international travel recovery,” adding that it “served no purpose anymore.” Raymond James said in a research note that lifting the restrictions “is an important catalyst for international travel.”
IATA, the world’s biggest airline trade group, said it was “great news” that the administration is “removing the ineffective pre-departure COVID test for travel to the US.”
Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) Chief Executive Ed Bastian told Reuters last week that dropping the requirements will boost travel, noting that 44 of 50 countries Delta serves do not require testing. U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said Friday’s move will “accelerate the recovery of the U.S. travel industry,” which was hard hit by the pandemic.