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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that US government will require all international airline passengers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding flights to the country.
The order will go into effect Jan. 26, and travelers will have to be tested within three days of their travel to the US.
CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said in a statement that testing doesn't eliminate all risk, but can make travel safer when combined with other precautions such as wearing masks.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the CDC order for universal testing of passengers, including US citizens returning from abroad, comes weeks after the Trump administration imposed a testing requirement for travelers from the UK.
The UK ban was enacted due to concerns about a more infectious strain of the virus that was detected there, and has since been found in locations across North America. Since then, the new strain has been found in the US.
Airlines will be required to deny boarding to anyone without documentation of a negative test, the CDC said. The order exempts airline crew, military personnel and passengers under two-years-old.
If an American tests positive while abroad, they must self-isolate until they have recovered and been cleared by a doctor to travel or test negative.
Airlines will have to confirm the written negative test result or proof of recovery before boarding passengers. Passengers flying on private or charter flights will also have to provide proof of testing.
The order applies even to those who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Dr. Martin Cetron, who leads the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told The Journal in an interview that "the change was necessary in light of post holiday surges in COVID-19 cases and the larger number of international travelers arriving in the US each day."
International air traffic is still down dramatically from last year, but the number of arriving passengers has risen sixfold from June to November, according to figures from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
"If people are going to ignore the strong admonishments not to travel, we have to make that travel experience as safe and healthy and responsible as possible," Cetron said.
The US currently bans travelers from certain countries including the UK and other European nations, Brazil and China if they are not US citizens or permanent residents. Americans are alos barred from visiting many countries, including most of Europe.
The directive also expands the CDC order requiring proof of a negative coronavirus tests for all airline passengers from the UK.