The Biden administration announced that the CDC will lift its requirement that all travelers show a negative COVID test prior to entering the U.S. via air travel. The testing requirement was dropped for all inbound travelers, effective June 12. (Stock image)

U.S. Lifts COVID-19 Testing Mandate for International Travel

On Friday, the Biden administration announced that the CDC will lift its requirement that all travelers show a negative COVID test prior to entering the U.S. via air travel. The testing requirement was dropped for all inbound travelers, effective June 12.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has now shifted to a new phase, due to the widespread uptake of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines, the availability of effective therapeutics and the accrual of high rates of vaccine – and infection-induced immunity at the population level in the United States,” the CDC said in a news release. “As a result, this requirement which was needed at an earlier stage of the pandemic may be withdrawn.”

The CDC stated that it will review its decision after 90 days to determine if it is necessary to reinstate the requirement if cases rise again or new variants emerge.

The entry requirements mandated all inbound U.S. passengers over the age of 2 to take a COVID test within 24 hours before departure. Passengers were required to test negative to re-enter the country, regardless of vaccination status. An exemption from the requirement could be made by travelers that show proof of recovering from COVID within 90 days.

While the inbound testing requirement is no longer in effect, the CDC still requires non-citizen travelers to show proof of vaccination when entering the U.S., according to the Department of State.

The airline industry has advocated for the removal of the inbound testing requirement for months, citing declines in case counts and widespread availability of vaccines.

“We are pleased that the pre-departure testing requirement has been eliminated for international air travelers who are eager to visit or return home to the United States. The airline industry appreciates the Administration’s decision to lift the pre-departure testing requirement in accordance with the current epidemiological environment,” said Nicholas E. Calio, President and CEO of Airlines for America, the industry’s trade association, in a statement.

“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. We are eager to welcome the millions of travelers who are ready to come to the U.S. for vacation, business and reunions with loved ones.”

Outbound travelers to numerous countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, no longer need a negative COVID-19 test to enter. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

The lifting of the mandate comes on the heels of PIT seeing the return of daily flights to Montreal on Air Canada, which began on June 1 and nonstop, year-round service to London on British Airways, which resumed June 3. The airport also has service to Toronto on Air Canada, Cancun, Mexico on Apple Vacations, Southwest, Spirit and Vacation Express, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on Apple Vacations and Vacation Express.

“This issue was a priority for PIT as we worked with our coalition partners on advocating for dropping the testing requirement for inbound travelers from abroad,” said Vince Gastgeb, senior vice president of Corporate & Government Relations at the airport. “Specifically, with the British Airways to London and Air Canada to Montreal flights starting in the same week, the requirement was an impediment to travel and inbound testing had been eliminated months prior by most countries.”

Outbound travelers to those countries no longer require a negative COVID test to enter. The United Kingdom, for example, lifted its testing requirement in March while Canada ended its mandate in August 2021.

The inbound testing requirement is the latest major pandemic-era restriction to end in the U.S. In April, the federal mask mandate for air travel was lifted after a Florida judge’s ruling struck down the order. As a result, most major U.S. airports do not require masks with the exception New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Stewart International Airport.

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