Returning home from an international trip just got easier for United States citizens. And so did travel for international visitors coming into the country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is lifting the requirement that all inbound international travelers produce a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight.
A senior White House official told CNN that the requirement is being dropped “based on the science and data.”
The move will be re-evaluated in 90 days to decide if the rule needs to be reinstated, the official said.
The administration dropped mask requirements in April for all passengers on flights, and the travel industry and others have lobbied hard since then to drop the testing requirement as well.
Industry officials have argued that many countries, including Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom, no longer require pre-boarding testing. They also noted that testing is not required for those who enter the country via land borders.
While the testing rule will be dropped, the U.S. will continue to require proof of vaccination to enter the country.
“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 a letter to Ashish Jha, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator.
Travel industry officials met with White House officials in late May to make their case.
“Despite the countless studies affirming that the hospital-grade air on-board aircraft is some of the cleanest available and the significant increase in vaccination rates, the administration continues to hold air travel to a standard different than land border crossings,” the president of Airlines for America, Nicholas E. Calio, said in a statement after the meeting, NBC News reported.
The testing requirement has been in effect since January 2021, started in an effort to open the borders to travel while working to stop the spread of the virus, which has claimed more than 1 million American lives.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have also lobbied the White House to drop the rule, particularly in states that rely on the travel industry as a major part of its economy.
“I’m glad CDC suspended the burdensome coronavirus testing requirement for international travelers, and I’ll continue to do all I can to support the strong recovery of our hospitality industry,” said Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto.
Las Vegas has had record gambling numbers over the past several months, but it has relied on domestic travelers for the most part. Dropping the testing rule should increase international visitors to the city, officials believe.
That rule has been one of the burdens in trying to draw visitors to the United States, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Reuters earlier this month. She called the United States an “outlier” when it comes to the situation.
“There are a lot of industries that are well past COVID,” Raimondo said. “Travel and tourism is not.”
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