US to end Covid testing requirement for international air travelers

The United States has agreed to lift its Covid-19 testing requirement for international air travelers entering the country following intense lobbying by American politicians and the business community.

From Sunday, international air passengers will no longer be required to present a negative Covid test to enter the United States, a White House official has confirmed.

However, the official said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would assess the policy “based on science and in the context of circulating variants”, suggesting the requirement could be reinstated if the country sees a significant resurgence of cases or rapid new spread. variant.

The long-awaited move lifts a policy that has been in place since January 2021 and comes after the US health agency dropped its mask-use requirement for air travelers in April.

More than 40 mayors representing cities including Miami, San Francisco, Houston and Atlanta wrote to the Biden administration earlier this week asking them to lift the requirement, citing the negative impact it was having on local businesses .

“American cities are still struggling to find international visitors after more than two years of pandemic-related restrictions,” the group of bipartisan mayors wrote, noting that international attendance was still 78% below pre-levels. the pandemic.

“Our constituents and our businesses have suffered greatly from this sharp decline in international travel spending, and they will not be able to fully recover until this vital sector of the American economy rebounds,” the mayors said, noting that 40 other countries had waived their pre-departure testing requirements. .

Their call followed similar requests from members of Congress, including a bipartisan Nevada congressional delegation and 30 Republican senators.

Airline executives had also expressed frustration with pandemic-related travel requirements. American Airlines chief executive Robert Isom said last week, “I think we’re all frustrated. We are really frustrated”.

Business advocacy groups welcomed the reversal on Friday.

“Today marks another big step forward for the resumption of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States,” said US Travel Association President Roger Dow.

He noted that more than half of overseas travelers had cited the pre-departure testing requirement “as a major deterrent to inbound travel to the United States” in a recent Morning Consult survey for the group. .

A recent analysis by the travel industry trade group found that lifting the requirement could attract 5.4 million additional visitors to the United States and $9 billion more in travel spending for the remainder of 2022.

“Waiving this requirement will allow the industry to pave the way for a broader economic and employment recovery in the United States,” Dow said.

Additional reporting by Kiran Stacey in Washington