When will the USA end its ‘Europe Ban’ and the other international travel policies keeping visitors from entering the country? In December we heard it was imminent, but that’s now come and passed. There’s one new notable piece of news though: all travelers entering the USA will soon need a negative covid-19 test before flight, or be denied boarding.
The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) lead travel policy will require all international arrivals, including returning US citizens and visa holders to obtain a covid-19 test prior to departure from their international gateway, according to WSJ.
And yes, that includes travel from US vacation favorite, Mexico, which saw nearly 1 million Americans over the December holiday and New Years celebrations, despite mass warnings to postpone trips. Wait for it – in Cancun and Quintana Roo alone.
USA To Require Covid-19 Testing
According to officials briefed on the matter, The United States of America will require a covid-19 test for all international arrivals, even those from nearby Canada and Mexico, effective January 26th, 2021.
If you’ll be arriving or returning to the United States from this date forward, you’ll need a negative covid-19 test to board a flight. Without one, you’ll be denied check in. It’s expected that the cost of testing will remain with the passenger, though it’s unclear which types of test will be accepted.
Recent US requirements for UK travelers entering the country specify a NAAT/PCR test is necessary. These tests are typically more accurate, but also more expensive and time consuming to receive results.
Current travel bans still apply, but the news could be a strong sign that the United States is preparing to roll back the bans which are based on region or origin, in favor of the science based approach pre-flight testing brings. In other words, it could end the Europe ban overnight, though there’s been no specific indication.
The policy comes amid a presidential transition, where Joseph Biden will become the 46th President Of the United States. The United States remains among the countries with the highest covid-19 case rates, and leads the worlds in the horrific figure of total deaths due to the global pandemic.
Although travelers coming from abroad likely pose less statistical risk than those already in the country, given infection rates, a layer of testing for all travelers – even returning US citizens – helps to create a layer of control to the situation, mitigating some of the risks around new strain importation.
Higher Costs And More Hassle
Covid-19 testing abroad, particularly in remote locations isn’t always easy, and always comes at an additional expense, which authorities may hope will further discourage unnecessary travel for the immediate future.
Most destinations, including Hawaii, Bahamas, The Maldives and Brazil require a negative covid-19 test prior to travel which mean testing on both sides, at a cost of around $100 per person each way, or more.
Tourism dependent countries initiated pre-flight covid-19 testing in the spring of 2020 in an effort to reboot travel while minimizing safety risks and resources. Taking a pre-flight test is not a one stop solution, but provides a barrier which creates odds of circa 1:1,000 that a person can receive a negative covid-19 test, and still carry the virus into the country, according to real world studies.
Despite the relative success of such programs, the United Kingdom, and now the USA only just announced similar science based moves. The UK policy goes into effect on Wednesday, January 13th, 2021, and the US will follow just over 10 days later. We’ll update this news story as full announcements are released from the CDC.
Finding travel restrictions confusing? Read up on the latest travel entry restrictions with our ‘can I travel there?’ resource.