US to require negative COVID-19 test for international arrivals

Shutterstock / Ron Adar

Proof of a negative COVID-19 test will be required for all international arrivals into the United States, effective January 26, 2021. 

On January 12, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the new testing requirements that will apply to all passengers, including US citizens arriving from abroad. The CDC said that travelers will need to get tested within three days before boarding a flight to the US. Airlines will be required to deny boarding to anyone without proof of a negative test. However, airline crew, military personnel and passengers under two years of age, will be exempt from the new measure.

“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 the Americans,” read the statement from the CDC.

In the US, new COVID-19 cases have surged since the Christmas holidays. The number of international travelers entering the country has also been rising daily.

“If people are going to ignore the strong admonishments not to travel, we have to make that travel experience as safe and healthy and responsible as possible,” said Dr. Martin Cetron from the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.

The new requirement could replace the current travel ban, which was put in place since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. The trade group representing large US carriers, Airlines for America, voiced its support for the new testing policy.

“We believe 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,” the group’s letter to the US Vice President Mike Pence.

In March 2020, US President Donald Trump temporarily banned nationals from 26 European Union countries that are part of the Schengen Agreement from entering the US. The ban was also extended to travelers from the United Kingdom. 

Canada has also imposed testing requirements for all travelers flying into Canada, effective January 7, 2021. The screening test must be taken no more than 72 hours before arrival at one of Canada’s airports, harbors, or at border posts by land.


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