Before boarding any flights, all international passengers traveling to the United States must first demonstrate a negative coronavirus test under a new federal policy that comes into effect on Jan. 26.
“Testing doesn’t eliminate all risks,” said Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement describing the new policy.
“However, when combined with staying at home and taking everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, travel can become safer, healthier and more responsible by reducing its spread on airplanes, at airports and at travel destinations.”
Dr. Redfield is expected to sign the contract with the new rules on Tuesday.
The new policy stipulates that all passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must receive a test for current infections within three days prior to departure for the United States and must provide written documentation of their test results or proof of recovery from Covid. 19th
Evidence of immunization won’t be enough as the vaccines have been shown to only prevent serious diseases, said Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the CDC-vaccinated people, could theoretically still be infected and transmit the virus on a flight.
The agency will not require any further testing in the three months following a positive test unless the traveler has had symptoms. In this situation, a passenger may travel with documentation of the positive test result and a letter from a health care provider or public health officer stating that the traveler has now been cleared for travel.
Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before boarding. If a passenger fails to provide evidence of a negative test or recovery, or fails to take a test, the airline must deny the passenger boarding, the agency said.
“Tests before and after travel are an important layer in order to slow down the introduction and spread of Covid-19,” said a statement by the officials. “With the US already in the surge status, the passenger testing requirement will help slow the spread of the virus while we work to vaccinate the American public.”
The policy expands on a similar rule introduced in late December that requires travelers from the UK to prove a negative result on a virus test. The Trump administration introduced this restriction after reports that a more contagious variant of the coronavirus had become the source of most infections in much of this country.
This variant has now been discovered in several American states and, according to scientists, is likely to have spread even more. However, the United States genetically sequences only a tiny fraction of its virus samples – too few to give an accurate estimate of the spread of the variant in that country.
Jan. 17, 2021, 10:48 p.m. ET
The new travel policy follows the announcement by the Japanese government on Tuesday that four travelers from Brazil have imported another new variant of the virus into Japan. Two other so-called worrying variants are said to be in circulation in South Africa and Brazil.
The coronavirus outbreak>
Things to know about testing
Confused by Coronavirus Testing Conditions? Let us help:
- antibody: A protein produced by the immune system that can recognize and attach to certain types of viruses, bacteria or other invaders.
- Antibody test / serology test: A test that detects antibodies specific to the coronavirus. About a week after the coronavirus infects the body, antibodies start appearing in the blood. Because antibodies take so long to develop, an antibody test cannot reliably diagnose an ongoing infection. However, it can identify people who have been exposed to the coronavirus in the past.
- Antigen test: This test detects parts of coronavirus proteins called antigens. Antigen tests are quick and only take five minutes. However, they are less accurate than tests that detect genetic material from the virus.
- Coronavirus: Any virus that belongs to the Orthocoronavirinae virus family. The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is known as SARS-CoV-2.
- Covid19: The disease caused by the new coronavirus. The name stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019.
- Isolation and quarantine: Isolation is separating people who know they have a contagious disease from those who are not sick. Quarantine refers to restricting the movement of people who have been exposed to a virus.
- Nasopharyngeal smear: A long, flexible stick with a soft swab that is inserted deep into the nose to collect samples from the space where the nasal cavity meets the throat. Samples for coronavirus tests can also be obtained with swabs that do not go as deep into the nose – sometimes called nasal swabs – or with mouth or throat swabs.
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): Scientists use PCR to make millions of copies of genetic material in a sample. With the help of PCR tests, researchers can detect the coronavirus even when it is scarce.
- Viral load: The amount of virus in a person’s body. In people infected with the coronavirus, viral loads can peak before symptoms, if any.
The White House coronavirus task force and federal agencies, including the CDC, have been debating the expanded requirements for weeks.
The CDC currently recommends that all air travelers, including those flying within the United States, be tested one to three days prior to travel and again three to five days after travel is complete.
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Many airlines offer optional tests for passengers, but only mandate them if the destinations so require. But last week a group representing major U.S. airlines endorsed a policy requiring all passengers to be tested.
In a statement, United Airlines welcomed the move, saying testing was “the key to opening up international borders”.
“United already has procedures in place to comply with similar regulations for international jurisdictions and we will plan to expand them in light of this new mandate,” the airline said in a statement.
“In addition, United is actively working to introduce new technologies and processes to make it easier for our employees and our customers to navigate these test requirements.”
Niraj Chokshi contributed to the coverage.