Anyone flying to the US will soon need to show proof of a negative test for COVID-19, health officials announced Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirement expands on a similar one announced late last month for passengers coming from the United Kingdom. The new order takes effect in two weeks.
COVID is already widespread in the US, with more than 22 million cases reported to date, including more than 375,000 deaths. The new measures are designed to try to prevent travellers from bringing in newer forms of the virus that scientists say can spread more easily.
The CDC order applies to US citizens as well as foreign travellers. The agency said it delayed the effective date until Jan. 26 to give airlines and travellers time to comply.
International travel to the US has already been decimated by pandemic restrictions put in place last March that banned most foreigners from Europe and other areas. Travel by foreigners to the US and by Americans to international destinations in December was down 76% compared to a year earlier, according to trade group Airlines for America.
The new restrictions require air passengers to get a COVID-19 test within three days of their flight to the US, and to provide written proof of the test result to the airline. Travellers can also provide documentation that they had the infection in the past and recovered.
Airlines are ordered to stop passengers from boarding if they don’t have proof of a negative test.
“Testing does not eliminate all risk,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said in a statement. “But when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations.”