White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told a press conference on Tuesday that the Biden administration has “no plans” to either ease or lift pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirements for travelers heading to the United States.
The administration has come under increasing pressure to scrap pre-departure rules after the likes of the United Kingdom and even Australia announced plans to lift their own testing requirements for international arrivals.
Under the existing rules set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly all travelers coming to the United States must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of departure. The testing window was reduced from three days after the emergence of the Omicron variant in South Africa.
Critics of pre-departure testing claim it is not only no longer needed due to the success of mass vaccination programs but that testing dampens travel demand because people are scared of having their plans ruined by a positive test.
Last month, a group of airline and travel executives including the CEOs of American, Delta and United Airlines wrote to President Biden urging him to scrap pre-departure testing alongside the federal face mask mandate.
While the industry says it initially supported measures like pre-departure testing, the executives now say that “much has changed since these measures were imposed and they no longer make sense in the current public health context.”
“The persistent and steady decline of hospitalization and death rates are the most compelling indicators that our country is well protected against severe disease from COVID-19. Given that we have entered a different phase of dealing with this virus, we strongly support your view that “COVID-19 need no longer control our lives,” the letter continued.
“Now is the time for the Administration to sunset federal transportation travel restrictions – including the international pre-departure testing requirement and the federal mask mandate.”
The mask mandate is currently set to expire on April 18 (unless it is extended once again) but the pre-departure testing rules don’t have any immediate expiry date. Nonetheless, the administration has come under pressure to scrap testing rules on the same date that the mask mandate is lifted.
On Tuesday, Zients, however, said there were no current plans to lift the testing rules. Zients is, though, about to leave his position as the White House coronavirus response coordinator and a change in leadership may also herald a new way of dealing with the pandemic.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.