U.S. to lift coronavirus test requirement for flyers returning to the country

International travelers flying to the United States will no longer need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding their flights to the U.S., a senior Biden administration official said Friday, ending one of the nation’s last pandemic-related travel requirements.

The requirement will end at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

The administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement, said science and data show the requirement is no longer necessary. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will reassess the decision in 90 days and would reinstate the requirement if necessary, officials said.

The Biden administration in April dropped its requirement that people wear masks on airplanes, buses and in other public transportation settings after a federal judge ruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its authority by putting the mandate in place. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of Florida is being appealed.

When the administration dropped enforcement of the mask mandate, the travel industry hoped the administration also would drop the requirement that people flying to the U.S. show proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding their flights. Instead, it has remained in place.

The U.S. began requiring proof of a negative test from all international travelers age 2 and older in January 2021. Federal health officials viewed testing and masking as key strategies for stopping the spread of the coronavirus, particularly as new, more transmissible variants emerged.

In November, as the Biden administration prepared to lift a ban on travelers from 33 countries — including China and more than two dozen European nations — it also began requiring non-U. S. citizens to show proof of vaccination in addition to a negative test result.

The travel industry initially supported testing as a way to reopen the country, but in recent months has become increasingly vocal about the need to end it.

In a letter sent last month to Ashish Jha, the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, industry officials noted many countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada, no longer require pre-departure testing for travelers who have been vaccinated. They also pointed out the U.S. does not require proof of a negative test for those who come to the country via land borders, although travelers who are not U.S. citizens must provide proof of vaccination.“Given the slow economic recovery of the business and international travel sectors, and in light of medical advancements and the improved public health metrics in the U.S., we encourage you to immediately remove the inbound testing requirement for vaccinated air travelers,” industry officials wrote in the letter.Travel groups recently met with White House officials to press their case.

Friday’s announcement drew praise from the travel industry, which has campaigned for months to have all pandemic-related requirements lifted.

“Today marks another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States,” said Roger Dow, chief executive of the U.S. Travel Association. “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.”

Nicholas E. Calio, chief executive of trade group Airlines for America, also praised the announcement.

“Lifting 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,” he said in a statement.

Tyler Pager contributed to this report by Lori Aratani for the Washington Post

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