Airlines Challenge Gov On Pre-Flight COVID Testing

By Jacob Taylor | Tuesday, 17 May 2022 16:45
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U.S. airlines are urging the Biden administration to drop a 16-month-old rule mandating nearly all international air passengers with some exceptions to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the country.

Airline executives say many Americans are not traveling internationally because of concerns they will test positive in a foreign country and then be left abroad. International U.S. air travel remains down about 15% from pre-pandemic levels.

Airlines for America, an industry group, said Friday a survey of its carriers assessed that dropping testing rules would bring in an additional 4.3 million international passengers and $1.7 billion in incremental revenue - and could result in an incremental 1.075 million foreign visitors and $2.1 billion in visitor spending.

Crain's Chicago Business reported Thursday that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he did not think pre-departure rules "will be there forever" but added lifting them would require the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to be confident "relaxing it would not harm the progress that we’ve made against the virus." CDC declined to comment.

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Britain's Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Reuters and other reporters in Washington on Thursday he examined the issue with Buttigieg and some U.S. lawmakers.

Shapps said dropping requirements have boosted the British economy and not impacted COVID-19 cases.

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"It works to get rid of it. It's been a massive boost for our tourism, travel industry," Shapps said.

He thinks the United States is moving toward lifting the regulations, but U.S. officials offered no firm indications.

"My sense is that it's moving towards the endgame. I think they realize that it needs to go," Shapps said. "My sense is that it is summer."

The United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and many other countries have eliminated pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated travelers.

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Switzerland is the most recent European country to declare the removal of travel restrictions, following an examination that due to the high level of immunity among the population, there are low risks that the healthcare system may be overburdened despite the high COVID-19 cases.

The Swiss Federal Council announced the decision in a press release issued on February 16, suggesting that the new travel rules and other facilitated measures in the country would come into effect on the following day, on February 17.

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“Health-related measures for persons entering the country are to be lifted. It will no longer be necessary to provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test or complete an entry form,” the Council announces.

At its meeting held on Wednesday, the Council has also decided to stop issuing COVID certificates that are valid only in Switzerland, which were introduced last autumn for domestic use. Yet, EU-compatible COVID certificates will continue to be issued since several EU, and Schengen Area countries still require such certificates for entry into their territory.

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