The US government removed all COVID-19 requirements for international travel to the country on Sunday, June 12. After reviewing new COVID-19 data and assessing the availability of vaccines and treatment options, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the decision. The agency warned that the restriction could be reimposed if new variants of the virus drive up infections again. They will review the decision within 90 days.
The widespread adoption of COVID-19 vaccines and availability of effective therapeutics has led to a shift in the COVID-19 pandemic to a new phase. This is due to high levels of vaccine-induced immunity and increased vaccine-induced immunity. CNN reported that each of these measures contributed to a lower risk of death and severe disease in the United States.
In December 2021, the CDC changed its travel restrictions to require US-bound travelers that they show proof of a negative COVID PCR/antigen test at least one working day before boarding international flights. Recent infected travelers must show proof of recovery within 90 days before their flight. A letter from a doctor must also be presented to confirm that they are safe to travel. This rule was applicable to all travelers aged 2 and over, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status. However, with the increasing immunity to COVID vaccines as well as prior infections, some people are concerned that the testing restrictions may have been outdated and could be more harmful to the travel industry.
A report by the US Travel Association shows that the number of international tourists to the US has declined by 36% in 2021, compared to 2019. "Prior the pandemic, tourism was one of our largest industries exports. Roger Dow, President and CEO of US Travel Association, stated that lifting this requirement would allow the industry to lead the recovery of the US economy and jobs.
Public health experts agreed that the decision by the Biden administration was long overdue. Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, stated to Bloomberg that "I have always believed the testing requirement for travel the USA was not evidence-based and logical" Multiple countries, including England, Ireland and Costa Rica, have removed pre-boarding testing requirements since the beginning of spring 2022.
There is concern about how lax travel protocols might affect high-risk individuals, such as those with severe preexisting conditions or people suffering from COVID.
"Lifting COVID testing to international travel completely negates the fact that there remains an worldwide pandemic," Meegan zikus, a bioethicist from Grand Valley State University in Michigan, who is immunocompromised, said to The New York Times. The pandemic has left the world exhausted. Pretending it is over is dangerous, ignorant, and hurts the most vulnerable.
Both domestic and international travelers are strongly advised to take a COVID test prior and after boarding a plane. If you are positive, it is a good idea to postpone your trip and follow the quarantine guidelines. The virus can be prevented by using boosters or masks in enclosed public areas such as planes.