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US to drop pre-departure Covid test requirement for air travellers

Most non-US citizens will still have to be vaccinated to travel to the United States


Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport. Photo: Stock

Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport. Photo: Stock

Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport. Photo: Stock

The Biden administration will drop its pre-departure Covid-19 test requirement for international air travel from 00.01am on Sunday, June 12, according to a senior administration official.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will no longer require the test for air travellers coming to the United States, Reuters reports. 

It will reassess this decision in 90 days, the official said.

However, the CDC is still requiring most non-US citizens to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel to the US.

“This is the news we have been waiting for,” said Mary McKenna, managing director of Tour America.

“This now takes the stress out of having to organise a Covid-19 test prior to entry. It has been causing undue worry for clients and additional costs.”

Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, CEO of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC), described the pre-departure test as “a deterrent to travel”.

"Now that it’s gone, it should help boost Irish tourism,” he added. “The US market is obviously very important to Irish tourism’s full recovery, so it’s a very positive development." 

Aer Lingus said it “would warmly welcome the lifting of the remaining entry restrictions into the US”, having resumed 14 direct routes to North America. 

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The news follows heavy lobbying from airlines and the travel industry, and comes as the busy summer travel season kicks off.

Many countries in Europe and elsewhere have already dropped testing requirements, including Ireland, the UK, Spain, Italy and Greece. 

Airlines have said that many Americans are not traveling internationally because of concerns they will test positive and be stranded abroad.

"This means that the last remaining barrier to fully opening the US market for international travel is now lifted,” said Siobhan McManamy, acting chief executive of Tourism Ireland.

“Our message is that Ireland is open for business again and we cannot wait to welcome back visitors from the United States.”

The US has required air travellers to provide pre-departure negative tests since January 2021.

In December the CDC tightened the rules to require negative tests within one day of flights to the US rather than three days. It does not require testing for land border crossings.

Ruth Andrews, CEO of Incoming Tour Operators of Ireland, said the testing requirement for American visitors returning home brought “enormous additional work” for inbound tour operators, and was a source of stress for visitors.

"We hope to see new consumer confidence and an increase in demand immediately, which should turn into bookings for late summer and into the autumn months.”

In April, a US federal judge declared the CDC's requirements that travellers wear masks on airplanes and in transit hubs like airports unlawful and the administration stopped enforcing it.

The US Justice Department has appealed the order but no decision is likely before autumn at the earliest.

Sean Connick, chair of the Association of Visitor Experiences and Attractions (AVEA) in Ireland, also welcomed news that travel testing would be scrapped.

“The wider visitor attractions sector right around the country works very closely with many tour operators who bring groups and individuals to us, and this will greatly enable them to tap into the high level of interest that American visitors have in coming to Ireland.

"It is great news to get at this early point in the summer season, bringing greater certainty and confidence, so we hope it translates quickly into new bookings.”

American Airlines chief executive Robert Isom said last week at a conference that the testing requirements were "nonsensical" and were "depressing" leisure and business travel.

Many US lawmakers had also pressed the Biden administration to lift the testing rules, reaching out to senior White House officials to make the case.

"I’m glad the CDC suspended the burdensome coronavirus testing requirement for international travellers," Nevada senator Catherine Cortez Masto said.

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