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Flyers to US Will No Longer Have to Test for Covid-19

By Tribune Travel

June 10, 2022

The Biden administration is removing the rule that all travelers test negative for coronavirus before flying to the United States, citing criticism from airlines that saw the regulation as overly burdensome and blamed it for stifling ticket sales. According to a senior administration official who requested anonymity to discuss the plan before it was formally disclosed, the modification would take effect immediately after midnight on June 12 and will be examined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 90 days. International travelers flying to the United States are currently required to show documentation of a negative coronavirus test done within 24 hours of their departure flight. With a few exceptions, foreign nationals will still need to be coronavirus-vaccinated before entering the country. If a new, dangerous strain of the virus emerges, the health authorities may decide to reestablish the restriction, according to the official. The administration will continue to encourage testing before flying, but believes that improved therapies and coronavirus vaccines have made it possible to relax the rule. According to biosecurity experts, the change is unlikely to dramatically raise the risk of coronavirus spreading in the United States, while visitors should still wear masks before flying to decrease the possibility of transmission.

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In recent weeks, top airline executives have stated that passengers are concerned about the risk of purchasing overseas flights only to be stranded in foreign locations. While domestic airline ticket sales have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, international travel has not. "We feel this is the correct time for this decision, given the broad availability of viable treatment alternatives and immunizations," American Airlines Group Inc. said in a statement regarding the testing decision.

A move in the right direction

According to the U.S. Travel Association, lifting the requirement may result in an additional 5.4 million visitors to the US and $9 billion in travel spending for the rest of the year. The travel and tourism industry has historically supported one out of every 20 jobs in the United States, generating $1.9 trillion in economic activity in 2019, according to a data sheet released by the Commerce Department this week. However, the Covid-19 outbreak wreaked havoc on the business. Even with a modest rebound, international visitor expenditure in 2021 was just 34% of pre-pandemic levels ($81 billion), according to the Commerce Department.

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