The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has dropped pre-departure COVID-19 testing rules for U.S. citizens and certain other travelers in Shanghai, China because of the “current exigent circumstances” that not only make obtaining a pre-departure almost impossible but could possibly result in travelers being arrested if they tried to get a test.
Pre-departure testing rules for all airline passengers heading from an international destination to the United States have been in place for more than a year and, until now, the Biden administration has shown little interest in easing or even completely dropping the current policy despite widespread criticism from across the travel and airline industries.
Travelers must obtain an authorized test within one day of starting their journey to the United States but a harsh weeks-long lockdown in China’s financial capital has made it almost impossible for U.S. citizens to comply with the requirement. Parts of Shanghai have now been locked down since March in an effort to stem a surge in COVID-19 infections but cases continue to hit new daily records.
On Tuesday, the city of 25 million residents reported over 26,000 new daily cases despite an all-out effort from under pressure city officials to maintain President Xi Jinping’s ‘dynamic zero’ strategy that aims to eliminate COVID-19 clusters whenever they crop up through targeted lockdowns and mass testing.
The decision to loosen the policy for travelers from Shanghai was made after a direct request from the State Department following Shanghai’s apparent inability to bring the latest outbreak under control. China’s ‘Zero Covid’ policy has come under increasing strain from the highly transmissible Omicron variant which is evading defences that had previously kept COVID-19 largely out of China.
China has already accused the U.S. of “weaponising” the lockdown after the State Department ordered non-emergency Consulate employees and their families to leave the city.
Although the lockdown is starting to ease, many residents are still confined to their apartments or compounds. Some residents are now allowed to walk the streets but they are not permitted to stray far. The lockdown is so stringently enforced that residents aren’t even permitted to visit a supermarket and everything must be delivered.
There is little leeway to ‘break’ the lockdown and obtaining a pre-departure test would unlikely qualify as an excuse.
“CDC has determined that the current exigent circumstances in Shanghai, China may preclude individuals from meeting the requirements of CDC’s amended Testing Order,” the U.S. embassy in China said in a statement on Friday.
“if individuals subject to this exercise of enforcement discretion are not able to be tested in the timeframe required, the airlines may proceed with boarding these individuals without meeting the requirement of a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19,” the statement continued.
The airline industry would like to see pre-departure testing rules dropped altogether in the same way that has already happened in Europe, the UK and further afield. Even Australia plans to drop pre-departure testing rules later this month.
“Pre-departure testing is no longer an effective measure in protecting the United States from COVID-19,” wrote lobby group Airlines for America in a recent open letter to the White House. The group represents the likes of American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines.
“The requirement provides little health benefit, yet discourages travel by imposing an additional cost, as well as a fear of being stranded overseas,” the letter continued. “It no longer is logical to keep a pre-departure testing requirement in place for inbound international air travelers to the United States”.
The White House says there are no plans to drop the policy.
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.
Lawful US Citizen returning to their home: Scramble to find a test within 24 hours and spend hundreds of dollars doing so.
Illegal Aliens walking in from Mexico: Vaya con Dios
Coming from communist China (Shanghai): No Problem, Come on in!!
The worthless old fart in the WH has nothing but contempt for US Citizens.
what a racist hack.