Official: US CDC Travel Guidelines will require negative CoVid-19 test report to arrive by air

Almost a year after the CoVid-19 pandemic set in, the United States is finally doing something about the pandemic being imported into the country, or so it seems with new CDC Travel Guidelines coming into effect in January 2021.

For US residents returning to the country so far, and for visitors, arriving into the USA has been a simple process with no special arrangements or checks implemented for the Coronavirus, apart from bans on arrival from specific countries. Last night, I’d mentioned here that there is a discussion ongoing about the CDC implementing requirements of testing on those arriving in the US to provide a pre-departure CoVid-19 negative test, as per the WSJ.

CDC Travel Guidelines

New CDC Travel Guidelines mandate pre-departure testing

Now, new US CDC Travel Guidelines notified on January 12, 2021, will require international air travellers entering the United States of America to get tested for CoVid-19 before arriving in the USA. Here are the details of the requirements:

  • This testing requirement applies to all international travellers two years or older arriving into the US by air, including citizens, residents and visitors to the United States
    • Foreign travel includes travel from anywhere that isn’t a state, territory, or possession of the United States
  • Viral testing will be required, and either a nucleic acid amplification test or rapid antigen test is going to be accepted.
  • The testing has to be done within 3 calendar days of the journey to the United States. For connecting flights, the test needs to be performed within 3 calendar days of the first flight, as long as the ticket is booked on one PNR and there is no layover of more than 24 hours.
  • Airlines must confirm the negative test results for passengers at the time of check-in.

The new requirement will apply on US citizens, residents as well as foreigners arriving into the US, arriving into the USA on January 26, 2021, and onwards. All travellers, aged 2 or older must comply, except for those transiting through the United States.

In a press release, the US CDC stated,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to all air passengers entering the United States.  Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19. This strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more efficiently protects the health of Americans.

Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants.  With the US already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public.

Before departure to the United States, a required test, combined with the CDC recommendations to get tested again 3-5 days after arrival and stay home for 7 days post-travel, will help slow the spread of COVID-19 within US communities from travel-related infections. Pre-departure testing with results known and acted upon before travel begins will help identify infected travelers before they board airplanes.

Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.

“Testing does not eliminate all risk,” says CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, “but when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations.”

This order was signed by the CDC Director on January 12, 2021 and will become effective on January 26, 2021.

While this might sound like too little too late, it is at least a start. We are nowhere close to this pandemic ending anytime soon, and the US is finally doing something to protect those in the USA from the imported transmission of the virus, which could include newer strains, potentially more dangerous.

What do you make of the US CDC Travel Guidelines to require a CoVid-19 negative test report to arrive in the USA?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. Many nations expect RT-PCR and a 72 hours cut off window. US has NAAT/Rapid antigen (the latter is really not accepted that much for travel) and the 3 calendar days is difficult. Would have been better to keep at 72 hours.

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