U.S. to drop COVID test requirement for arriving air travellers

By Hana Mae Nassar, and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

The U.S. is lifting its requirement that arriving international air travellers take a COVID-19 test within a day before boarding their flights, easing one of the last remaining government mandates meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

A senior administration official says the mandate expires Sunday at 12:01 a.m. EDT, adding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that it’s no longer necessary.

The official, speaking Friday on the condition of anonymity to preview the formal announcement, said that the agency would reevaluate the need for the testing requirement every 90 days and that it could be reinstated if a troubling new variant emerges.

The Biden administration put in place the testing requirement last year, as it moved away from restrictions that banned nonessential travel from several dozen countries — most of Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India, and Iran — and instead focuses on classifying individuals by the risk they pose to others. It came in conjunction with a requirement that foreign, non-immigrant adults traveling to the United States need to be fully vaccinated, with only limited exceptions.

Related Article: BC’s hospitality sector expects boost after US lifts COVID-19 test requirement for international travel

The initial mandate allowed those who were fully vaccinated to show proof of a negative test within three days of travel, while unvaccinated people had to present a test taken within one day of travel.

In November, as the highly transmissible omicron variant swept the world, the Biden administration toughened the requirement and required all travellers, regardless of vaccination status, to test within a day of travel to the U.S.

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Airline and tourism groups have been pressing the administration for months, pushing to eliminate the testing requirement, saying it is discouraging people from booking international trips. Many other countries have lifted their testing requirements for fully vaccinated and boosted travellers in a bid to increase tourism.

In February, the groups argued the testing requirement was obsolete because of the high number of Omicron cases already in every state, higher vaccinations rates and new treatments for the virus.

The change is both good and bad news for Canadians wanting to travel, according to Allison Wallace with Flight Centre.

On one hand, it will remove one headache from travelling to the States.

However Wallace says “it is going to play a little bit into the fact that there’s a lot more demand … that will potentially push up prices, when it comes to hotels and flights.”

“The U.S. is one of the few countries that still required this test to come in … this will have an immediate effect, for sure,”

She says the demand for travel has been massive over the past couple of months, and it’s expected to grow this summer. Her recommendation is to pack your patience and give yourself plenty of extra time when travelling through airports this year.

“There’s no question. If you are travelling this summer, given the delays, given the short staffing, you definitely want to make sure that you are anticipating that things are going to take a little longer.”

Canada dropped pre-entry test requirement in April

Canada dropped its pre-entry testing requirement for international air travellers as of April 1.

While pre-entry testing requirements for people who’ve received a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine have been dropped, travellers could still be randomly tested when they arrive.

All travellers, regardless of vaccination status, are also still required to continue using the ArriveCAN app and are being reminded that Health Canada still requires anyone coming into this country from abroad to wear a mask in public for 14 days.

Unvaccinated travellers continue to be tested upon arrival and again eight days later, and are required to quarantine for two weeks.

Meanwhile, unvaccinated Canadians and other travellers who are exempt from the vaccine requirement still need to provide a negative COVID-19 test or evidence that enough time has passed after an infection to enter the country.

Unvaccinated children coming to Canada who are travelling with vaccinated adults do not have to isolate from school or daycare for 14 days.

With files from Robyn Crawford and Denise Wong

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