The Biden administration is expected to announce Friday that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will lift its requirement for travelers to test negative for Covid-19 before entering the US, according to a senior administration official and a US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention official.
The move, which CNN was first to report, will go into effect for US-bound air travelers at midnight on Sunday, the officials said.
The CDC is lifting the restriction that the travel industry had lobbied against for months after determining it was no longer necessary “based on the science and data,” the senior administration official said. The CDC has the ability to reassess the order at any time and potentially reinstate it, especially if a new variant develops and poses concern. The measure has been in place since January 2021.
That official said the Biden administration plans to work with airlines to ensure a smooth transition with the change, but it will likely be a welcome move for most in the industry.
In a statement to CNN, the CDC said, “The Covid-19 pandemic has now shifted to a new phase, due to the 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. Each of these measures has contributed to lower risk of severe disease and death across the United States.”
Travel industry officials have been increasingly critical of the requirement in recent weeks and directly urged the Biden administration to end the measure, arguing it was having a chilling effect on an already fragile economy, according to Airlines for America chief Nick Calio, whose group met recently with White House officials.
The travel industry, and some scientific experts, said the policy had been out of date for months.
Lawmakers, including Democrats, had also advocated for lifting the requirement in recent weeks.
Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said, “I’m glad CDC suspended the burdensome coronavirus testing requirement for international travelers, and I’ll continue to do all I can to support the strong recovery of our hospitality industry.”
White House officials met last month with travel industry officials, who pressed the Biden administration to end its requirements that vaccinated international travelers take a coronavirus test before flying to the United States.
Airlines for America said its members – including American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines – had believed lifting the requirements would lead more foreigners to visit the US.
The trade association told CNN that in mid-May, domestic travel came within 7 percentage points of pre-pandemic levels, but international travel lagged at 14% below normal.
US Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow praised the decision.
“Prior to the pandemic, travel was one of our nation’s largest industry exports. The lifting of this requirement will enable the industry to lead the way toward a broader US economic and jobs recovery,” Dow said in a statement.
The industry has criticized the policy as out of date for months, and some medical experts have also questioned its utility.
Testing international arrivals doesn’t make much sense to Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
“I’ve been bemused about that for a long time because we’ve got plenty of Covid here! It’s not as though we’re trying to keep Covid out,” Schaffner told CNN in March. “It’s here already.”
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen and Marnie Hunter contributed to this report.