What you need to know about the new policy

The US administration so far required inbound travellers, including US citizens, to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test a day before boarding US-bound flights

Representational image. AFP

In a long-sought relief to travelers in the United States and abroad, the Joe Biden administration has dropped the Covid-19 testing requirement for inbound air travelers.

Starting from Sunday, travelers don’t need to carry a negative COVID-19 test result to enter the US.

What was the rule so far?

According to CNBC, the rule was put in place by the Trump administration in early 2021 and later tightened by the Biden administration. It required inbound travellers, including US citizens, to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test a day before boarding US-bound flights.

Travelers entering the US at land border crossings were exempt.

Travel industry and airlines have long pushed the administration to drop the strict regulations. The travel industry has been one of the hardest hits by the pandemic.

What is the new travel policy?

As per the new travel policy, flyers arriving in the US from a foreign country after Sunday no longer have to present a negative test result or documentation of recovery in the past 90 days from COVID-19.

According to CNNthe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cited a “new phase” of the pandemic in a statement confirming the rule change.

“Widespread uptake of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines, the availability of effective therapeutics, and the accrual of high rates of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity at the population level in the United States” have all helped lower the risk of severe disease and death, the agency said.

Is vaccination required?

All foreign arrivals who are 18 or older, who are not US nationals, legal permanent residents or immigrants, will still need to be fully vaccinated. Children aged 17 and under are not required to be vaccinated.

Vaccination requirements to enter the United States do not apply to US citizens.

Does the rule apply to land border and ferry port arrivals?

COVID-19 testing has not been required for entry via a land or ferry port. However, non-US travelers 18 and older must be fully vaccinated to enter the US.

Are the changes permanent?

The changes will be reassessed by the CDC in 90 days. According to Bloombergthe health agency may decide to reinstate the requirement if a new, concerning variant of the virus emerges.

The administration will continue to recommend testing prior to air travel.

The CDC also recommended wearing masks in indoor public transportation settings. Masks are no longer required.

Travel and tourism industry in the US

According to Bloombergthe travel and tourism industry has traditionally supported one in 20 US jobs, either directly or indirectly, creating $1.9 trillion in economic activity in 2019, the Commerce Department said in a fact sheet this week.

The COVID-19 pandemic deeply affected the industry. Even with a partial recovery, spending by international visitors in 2021 was only 34 per cent — $81 billion — of pre-pandemic levels, the Commerce Department said.

By eliminating the testing requirement, the US could invite 5.4 million visitors to the country and an additional $9 billion in travel spending through the remainder of the calendar year.

With inputs from agencies

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