The US drops the requirement for Covid testing for international travelers

A man checks into a Covid-19 test site in the International Arrivals Area of ​​Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California on December 22, 2021.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty pictures

The Biden administration will drop the Covid-19 test requirement for incoming travelers from abroad on Sunday, ending one of the longest travel restrictions for the pandemic.

The rule, introduced by the Trump administration in early 2021 and later tightened by the Biden administration, required recent incoming travelers, including U.S. citizens, to show evidence of a negative Covid test one day before boarding flights to the United States. Travelers entering the United States at land border crossings were exempt.

The change will take effect at 12:01 ET on Sunday.

Airlines and others in the tourism industry had repeatedly pressured the administration to drop the requirement, claiming that it hurt the demand for international travel. The tourism 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, DC, to discuss the test requirement, a rule he called “nonsensical.”

“We are very frustrated,” he said.

Other countries, including the United Kingdom, had previously abandoned entry rules for Covid testing.

“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 US travel industry,” said Roger Dow, president of the US Travel Association, in a statement. “International incoming travel is very important for companies and workers across the country who have struggled to recover losses from this valuable sector.”

For his part, the Travel Technology Association’s vice president of government relations, Mike Liptak, said in a statement that travel and tourism are the key to the economic recovery from the pandemic. Nick Calio, CEO of Airlines for America, the lobbying group for the largest US airlines, said the industry looks forward to continuing to work with the administration to prioritize the safety and well-being of the traveling public and to ensure that air travel policy is guided by science. “

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will reconsider the decision in 90 days, according to a senior official in the Biden administration.

“If there is a need to reintroduce a pre-departure test requirement – including due to a new, concerning variant – the CDC will not hesitate to act,” the official said.

The travel industry collided 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 to the United States, which was eventually lifted in November. Most non-nationals visiting the United States will still have to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination before flying to the United States, a White House spokesman said.

Separately, in April, a Trump-appointed federal judge struck down another controversial rule aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19: the Biden administration’s federal mandate that travelers wear masks on planes and other forms of public transportation. The Ministry of Justice has appealed the ruling.

CNBC Thomas Franck contributed to this article.