Daily Mail Online: LONDON, England – The Biden administration is “actively looking” at expanding mandatory COVID-19 testing to travelers on US domestic flights, a senior CDC official says.
Dr Marty Cetron, director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at CDC, was asked on a call with reporters on Tuesday about whether new domestic travel testing requirements might be employed.
Cetron said there were ‘conversations that are ongoing and looking at what the types and locations of testing might be… We’re actively looking at it’.
Airline officials fear such requirements could curtail already weak demand for air travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Joe Biden last week directed US agencies to make recommendations to ‘impose additional public health measures for domestic travel’ and to consider new requirements for people crossing land borders.
Administration officials had said that could include requiring negative COVID-19 tests before flying domestically.
It comes after Biden reinstated COVID-19 travel restrictions on most non-US travelers from Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and 26 other European countries that allow travel across open borders. He also added South Africa to the list because of concerns of a variant of the virus that has spread beyond that nation.
The South Africa variant has not yet been discovered in the US but another variant – originating in the United Kingdom – has been detected in several states.
New CDC rules also took effect this week requiring nearly all international air travelers aged 2 and older to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within three calendar days of travel, or proof of COVID-19 recovery, to enter the US.
In discussions with airline officials, the CDC has said it is considering requiring domestic testing as well.
“We realize that there’s been a dramatic evolution and increase in both testing platforms and testing capacity. I think this is a really important part of our toolkit to combat this pandemic,” Cetron said on the call with reporters.
The CDC has said it would not grant waivers to exempt travelers from some countries with limited testing capacity. Numerous US airlines had sought waivers.
The State Department said on Tuesday that US citizens should reconsider non-essential travel abroad, noting that access to testing in some nations remains difficult. The agency also cautioned Americans to consider ahead of international travel how they’d pay for health care and additional lodging costs if they became infected or hospitalized while travelling.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State Ian Brownlee has said the CDC is ‘not at this time issuing federal quarantine orders’ but recommends self-quarantining for seven days after returning from a trip and getting post-arrival COVID-19 tests.
Brownlee said the ‘main message to US citizens considering travel abroad remains the same: Seriously reconsider going overseas right now’.
‘If you’re overseas right now, it’s going to be harder to come home for a while,’ Brownlee said.
The airline industry has already been hit hard by the COVID pandemic, with lockdown restrictions and fears over catching the virus on planes sending passenger numbers plummeting.
Passenger traffic was down 67 per cent in 2020, wiping out 21 years of global aviation growth in a matter of months, as passenger numbers dropped to levels last seen in 1999.
At the peak of the disruption in April, scheduled passenger flights dropped to just 13,600 globally, on April 25, compared to 2020’s busiest day on January 3 when Cirium tracked over 95,000 scheduled passenger flights – an extraordinary 86 per cent reduction in flights.
The prohibition Biden has reinstated suspends entry to nearly all foreign nationals who have been in any of the countries on the restricted list at any point during the 14 days before their scheduled travel to the US.
President Donald Trump in his final days in office had called for the relaxation of the travel restrictions.
Dr Anthony Fauci called Biden’s decision to reinstate the travel restrictions – and add South Africa to the list – ‘prudent’.
“We have concern about the mutation that’s in South Africa,’ Fauci told ‘CBS This Morning.”
“We’re looking at it very actively. It is clearly a different and more ominous than the one in the UK, and I think it’s very prudent to restrict travel of noncitizens.”
The 26 European countries impacted by reinstatement of the ban are part of the border-free Schengen zone. They include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.