WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is lifting its requirement that international air travelers to the U.S. 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.
Senior administration officials stated that the mandate will expire Sunday morning at 12:01 AM. ET, saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that it’s no longer necessary. On Friday, the official spoke under the condition that he would not be identified in order to give a preview of the formal announcement. The agency will reevaluate its need for testing requirements every 90-days and could reinstate it if an alarming new variant is discovered.
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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. The requirement was made in tandem with the requirement that non-immigrant foreign adults travelling to the United States have to be fully vaccinated. There are very few exceptions.
Initial mandate permitted those with a positive test to submit proof within 3 days. Unvaccinated individuals had to provide proof within 1 day.
The highly transmissible variant of omicron was discovered in November. In response, the Biden Administration tightened the rules and mandated all travellers to undergo a test within one day after arriving to the U.S.
For months, airlines and tourism organizations have been pushing the government to remove the requirement for testing. They claim it discourages people from booking international travel. Many countries have eased their vaccination requirements and increased tourism.
The groups claimed that the February testing requirement is obsolete due to the large number of cases of omicron in each state, high vaccination rates, and the need for new treatment.
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