International travel is about to get a whole lot easier.
The Biden administration announced Friday that the United States will no longer require pre-departure COVID-19 testing to enter the country starting Sunday.
The requirement will be lifted at 12:01 a.m. ET, according to a senior administration official. The rule change comes more than a year after the country began requiring a negative test for entry and more than two years since the start of the pandemic.
Under current entry requirements, air passengers must take a negative viral coronavirus test no more than a day before boarding their flight to the United States The rule applies to all travelers, regardless of their vaccination status or citizenship, but grants exemptions to travelers 2 years and older who had recently recovered from the virus.
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The decision came, according to the official, because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined based on science that the requirement is no longer necessary. The decision will be reassessed in 90 days and the health agency plans to assess it on an ongoing basis.
If it becomes necessary to reinstate the pre-departure testing requirement (if something new, regarding variants, for example), the official continued, the CDC will plan to do so.
A number of other countries, including the UK, have already dropped pre-departure testing requirements for fully vaccinated visitors.
Requirements for travelers entering the United States by land or ferry remain unchanged: non-US citizens, nationals, and permanent residents may only enter if fully immunized. There are no testing requirements for land ports or ferry terminals.
News of easing restrictions welcomed by travel sectors
In the travel industry, the news that the pre-departure testing requirement for international travelers to the United States will be dropped has been welcomed.
US Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement that Friday’s news “marks another big step forward for the resumption of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States”.
“The Biden administration is to be commended for this action, which will once again welcome visitors from around the world and accelerate the recovery of the travel industry in the United States,” Dow continued.
And Airlines for America President and CEO Nicholas Calio said in a statement that the organization was pleased with the decision.
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“The airline industry appreciates the administration’s decision to waive the pre-departure testing requirement consistent with the current epidemiological environment,” Calio said. “Removing this policy will help encourage and restore air travel to the United States, benefiting communities across the country that rely heavily on travel and tourism to support their local economies. We look forward to welcoming millions of travelers who are willing to come to the United States for vacation, business and reunion with loved ones.”
Members of the cruise industry also welcomed the news.
Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line, said in a statement that the move is “a step forward in returning to all travel worldwide, including cruises.”
Antorcha continued that the change means cruise passengers can “pursue their love of cruising” from international homeports such as those in Europe, Canada and Australia “without fear of being refused entry. to go home.”
‘Are travel restrictions working?’
In January, the World Health Organization urged countries not to rely on proof of vaccination as a prerequisite for visiting a country.
Under new US entry requirements, unvaccinated citizens and permanent residents will be able to enter with a negative test, but most foreign nationals will still need proof of full vaccination to enter.
The warrants contradict findings that show travel restrictions slow the spread of the virus but do little to prevent it.
“We know that travel restrictions cannot stop the spread of these pathogens, especially when you have a new pathogen that spreads primarily when people are asymptomatic or mild,” said COVID technical lead Maria van Kerkhove. WHO -19, at USA TODAY in February. “You can slow the spread, but that won’t stop the spread.”
Stewart Simonson, deputy director-general at the WHO office in New York, added at the time that while travel restrictions may work “as a matter of domestic politics”, their effectiveness as a public health measure is less. certain.
“Do (travel restrictions) show the public that something is being done? If that’s your view, then they’re working,” Simonson said. “Do they work from a public health perspective? Do they reduce the spread rate or the spread itself? That’s another important way of looking at it, and there’s a lot of uncertainty.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz.