U.S. Finally Drops COVID Test Rule for International Air Travel

Starting Sunday, air travelers will no longer need a COVID test before boarding a flight to the U.S., and the tourism industry is stoked

International air travelers will soon be able to take this crucial task off their to-do list.

The Biden administration announced Friday that it will no longer require international air travelers to take a COVID test within a day before boarding flights to the U.S.

The air travel rule, which has been in place since January 2021 and is one of the last remaining national COVID mandates, is set to expire at 12:01 a.m. EST on Sunday, CNN reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is lifting the travel restriction after determining it was no longer necessary “based on the science and data,” a senior administration official said.

The White House is planning to work with airlines to ensure a smooth transition with the change, the official told CNN.

The news is bound to please airlines as well as tourism groups, which have been pushing the Biden administration for months to suspend the test requirement, arguing that it discouraged people from booking international trips for fear of being stranded overseas if they contract the virus, the Associated Press reports.

Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, called the decision “another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States.”

International U.S. air travel continues to lag behind domestic flights, which have returned to pre-pandemic levels, AP reports. U.S. international air travel this May was still 24 percent below 2019 levels, according to trade group Airlines for America.

Many other countries have already lifted their COVID testing requirements for fully vaccinated and boosted travelers in an effort to drum-up tourism.

In February, travel groups said the testing rule was obsolete due to the high number of Omicron cases that were already present in the states, increased vaccination rates, and new treatments for the virus.

Some scientists and lawmakers, including Democrats, have also advocated for the travel requirement to be lifted.

“I’m glad CDC suspended the burdensome coronavirus testing requirement for international travelers, and I’ll continue to do all I can to support the strong recovery of our hospitality industry,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said in a statement.

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