The U.S. government is expected to require all international airline passengers to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before boarding flights to the country, people familiar with the matter said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning to issue its order as soon as Tuesday, following weeks of discussions among federal agencies and the White House coronavirus task force. The order is expected to go into effect Jan. 26, according to a person familiar with the matter. The CDC and other administration officials were still completing the order.
The CDC order for universal testing of passengers, including for U.S. citizens returning from abroad, comes weeks after the Trump administration imposed a testing requirement for travelers from the U.K. over concerns about a more infectious strain of the virus that was detected there. Since then, the new strain has been found elsewhere in the world, and its presence in the U.S. has been confirmed.
The U.S. requirement comes during a difficult time for the aviation industry and international travelers who face a thicket of varied testing protocols and quarantine requirements around the world, including public-health advisories urging people to stay home.
U.S. airlines have voiced support for the new requirement but argued that ramped-up testing protocols should take the place of travel restrictions and quarantines to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
The Canadian government recently began requiring incoming international passengers to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before boarding a flight to Canada. An airline trade group in Canada said the rule would be challenging to enforce.
Airlines for America, a U.S. trade group, said that “a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place,” according to a letter its chief executive, Nick Calio, sent on Jan. 4 to Vice President Mike Pence.
Mr. Calio said the requirement should take into consideration countries where testing is limited, and he suggested the government make rapid testing available for the effort. He also touched on other complications, such as what to do with passengers who make short, international round-trips.
The U.S. currently bans travelers from certain countries including the U.K., European nations and China if they are non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Americans are likewise barred from visiting many countries, including most of Europe.
Before Covid-19 infection surged on both sides of the Atlantic in recent months, U.K. and U.S. officials had been working on developing a “travel corridor” that would afford passengers shortened quarantines after mandatory tests before departure and after arrival to avoid quarantines. For now, airlines have started to introduce testing protocols on certain routes that could eventually dovetail with international agreements to avoid quarantines.