The United States Government has announced the lifting of the Covid-19 testing requirement for inbound air travelers from abroad on Sunday, ending one of the longest-running travel restrictions of the pandemic.
The rule, had required inbound travelers, including U.S. citizens, to show proof of a negative Covid test a day before boarding U.S.-bound flights. Travelers entering the U.S. at land border crossings were however, exempted.
The change takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said science and data show the requirement is no longer necessary.
“CDC has determined that travelers have access to tools (e.g., vaccines, therapeutics, and recommended prevention measures) and guidance that allow travelers to make informed choices about the use of pre-departure testing and other prevention measures”, the order read.
The agency said it continues to recommend that individuals test before and after travel and after any known exposure to a person with covid-19.
“The CDC will reassess the decision in 90 days and would reinstate the requirement if necessary.
“The CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 testing prior to air travel of any kind and will not hesitate to reinstate a pre-departure testing requirement, if needed later”, it added.
Airlines and others in the travel industry had repeatedly pushed the administration to drop the requirement, arguing it was hurting demand for international trips. The travel industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.
American Airlines CEO Robert Isom told an industry conference last week that he met with politicians in Washington, D.C., to discuss the testing requirement, a rule he called “nonsensical.”
“We’re really frustrated” he said.
Other countries, including the U.K., had previously abandoned Covid testing entry rules.
“The Biden administration is to be commended for this action, which will welcome back visitors from around the world and accelerate the recovery of the U.S. travel industry.
“International inbound travel is vitally important to businesses and workers across the country who have struggled to regain losses from this valuable sector”, Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement.
For its part, the Travel Technology Association’s vice president of government relations, Mike Liptak, said in a statement that travel and tourism are key to the economic recovery from the pandemic.
Nick Calio, CEO of Airlines for America, the lobbying group for the largest U.S. carriers, said the industry looks “forward to continuing to work with the Administration to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of the traveling public and to ensure that air travel policies are guided by science.”
The travel industry clashed with both the Biden and Trump administrations throughout the pandemic over rules aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19, including a strict ban on most foreign visitors into the U.S., which was eventually lifted in November. Most noncitizen visitors to the U.S. will still have to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination before flying to the U.S., a White House spokesman said.