Large US airlines back global COVID-testing requirements: Report

6 months ago 23
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US carriers group urges Trump to rescind ban on travellers from several regions in line with health recommendations.

A group representing airlines in the United States has backed a proposal by public health officials to implement a global testing programme requiring negative tests before most international air passengers return to the US, according to a letter seen by the Reuters news agency.

Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and other large carriers, also urged the Trump administration in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Monday “to move ahead with recommendations to rescind current entry restrictions on travellers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil as soon as possible … concurrently with the testing programme.”

In November, Reuters reported that the White House was considering rescinding restrictions that ban most non-US citizens from travelling to the US from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil and the 26 members of the Schengen area that allow travel across open borders in Europe.

“We believe a well-planned programme focused on increasing testing of travellers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place,” the airlines’ letter said.

Airlines support a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposal to implement “a global program to require testing for travelers to the United States,” the letter added.

Carriers around the world have suffered enormously through the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, Delta Air Lines warned that cash losses could be deeper than expected in the fourth quarter of 2020, reaching as much as $14m a day, as the surge in coronavirus cases undermines travel demand. Southwest Airlines, another large US carrier, has told more than 6,800 of its employees that their jobs are at risk in early 2021.

High-level opposition

A senior Trump administration official told Reuters that the CDC proposal to expand international testing requirements faces significant opposition at top levels of the administration, including in Pence’s office. The White House coronavirus task force is expected to meet on Tuesday during which the issue is scheduled to be discussed, officials said.

Since December 28, the US’s CDC began requiring all airline passengers arriving from the UK – including US citizens – to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure [File: Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters]The CDC on December 28 began requiring all airline passengers arriving from the UK – including US citizens – to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure.

A CDC spokeswoman declined to comment on Monday but the agency said last week that “efforts are currently ongoing in the US to assess the risk reduction associated with testing and other recommended preventative measures … and gain some level of agreement on standards for a harmonised approach to testing for international air travel.”

Airlines are seeking at least 14 days before new requirements take effect and “consideration of inadequate testing and results availability in specific countries rather than a blanket worldwide requirement is also needed,” the letter said.

Starting on Thursday, Canada will require that air travellers five years of age and older test negative for COVID-19 before arrival.

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