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US drops Covid testing requirement – reports

The White House will announce on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will drop its requirement that air passengers entering the US test negative for Covid-19, multiple American news outlets report. While the airline industry has lobbied aggressively for this move, the Biden administration says that tests are no longer needed “based on the science.”

Air passengers entering the US have been required since early 2021 to show a negative coronavirus test to enter the country, with non-citizens required since last October to show proof of vaccination in addition to a test.

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The testing requirement will no longer be in effect as of Sunday, although it is unclear whether the vaccine requirement for non-citizens will remain in force. According to a CDC official quoted by CNN, the agency will reassess its decision in 90 days and will reserve the right to reinstate the mandate should a new and threatening variant of the coronavirus emerge.

The airline industry has lobbied the Biden administration for months to drop the requirement, with Airlines for America chief Nick Calio stating last month that “Quite frankly, the only impact the pre-departure testing requirement is having is a chilling effect on an already fragile economy here in the US.” 

According to figures from Airlines for America, international passenger numbers remain mired at 12% below pre-pandemic levels, while 21 of the US’ 30 largest airports are expected to see fewer passengers this summer than in 2019.

Although Calio’s organization met with White House officials late last month, the Biden administration insists that industry lobbying did not influence its decision to lift the testing requirement. Instead, an official told CNN that the administration is responding to “the science and data.”

The US is currently recording around half as many new cases of Covid-19 per week as when the requirement was brought into effect last January, per data from the World Health Organization. However, neither the requirement nor the Biden administration’s push for mass vaccination seemingly had any effect on transmission rates, which surged to a record high of 5.6 million cases per week in early January of this year. 

While deaths linked to Covid-19 spiked over the winter, the US is currently recording around 1,700 deaths per week, down from 23,000 when the requirement was introduced.

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