Covid Tests For Travel To U.S. Could End By Summer

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says pre-departure Covid tests for travel to the U.S. won’t be in place ‘forever.’ He flags that lifting the rule will require a CDC determination that “relaxing it would not harm the progress that we’ve made against the virus.”

If we’ve seen anything throughout the pandemic it’s that the CDC moves slowly. But there’s little question that testing-for-travel doesn’t affect the overall course of the virus in the U.S.

  • It didn’t keep out variants like Delta or Omicron
  • We now have far better tools to manage the pandemic (vaccines, treatments)
  • Hospitals aren’t overwhelmed
  • And there are few other measures in place at all, such that testing for travel cannot be seen as one piece of a larger attempt to control the virus

There’s an argument for slowing down spread when you’re on the cusp on prophylactics and treatments, or when hospital capacity is overwhelmed. Neither is the case today, so while a test prior to travel reduces the likelihood a given individual is infectious at time of flight it doesn’t have a material affect on the broader public health situation. And we don’t require testing prior to domestic travel, or for large gatherings.

The U.K.’s transportation secretary met with several lawmakers and with Secretary Buttigieg and noted that,

  • eliminating the requirement has benefited the U.K. economy without meaningfully contributing to Covid-19 cases

  • he learned the U.S. is working on lifting the requirement.

    My sense is that it’s moving towards endgame. I think they realize that it needs to go..My sense is that by the summer.

Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and many other countries that have taken pandemic restrictions more seriously than the U.S. have eliminated their predeparture testing requirements. The U.S. rule remains largely for bureaucratic reasons.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “relaxing it would not harm the progress that we’ve made against the virus.”

    What progress is that? Over 1 million people dead.

  2. @Skooby – Sunk cost fallacy. If your measure of progress is the number of lives lost, what policy would you propose to bring those lost back to life?

    No, you need to look at where we are today and decide where we go from here. One way to do that is to decide if any existing policies would be imposed given today’s conditions if the policies weren’t already in place. I think it’s obvious that if we didn’t already have the testing requirements, we wouldn’t be implementing them tomorrow, therefore they should be dropped.

  3. @Skooby – the answer is in your own quote!!! “…progress that we’ve made against the virus”. E.g., progress fighting the disease. Duh!

    “Over 1 million people dead” And? What are you gonna do? You can’t get them back. Most died when there was vaccine, no treatments. Or, they refused to use it.

    So, are we going to forever required these useless idiotic tests? When would you stop them? Remember, there will NEVER be less than a 1 mission people dead from this virus.

  4. How else can Brandon continue to destroy the American economy and the will of her citizens and visitors?…..How’s that 401K by the way…..But hey, at least there are no more mean tweets about Rosie O’Donnell!….LGB/FJB

  5. I’m not a physician but I have studied and taught demographics and some epidemiology. The death toll numbers are slippery as likely some were not counted and others are miscounted. An example of the latter is a friend of ours who “died of Covid” while severely diabetic to the point of a second amputation being likely, very overweight, and with increasing dementia. Sure that may have been the last push but she was definitely on the way out soon. Anyway, very good news if they get rid of this useless game.

    At the White House site I wrote Biden the following and got back a non sequitur reply about immigration. But if enough people keep writing maybe they’ll notice. Governments do move slowly but they usually stumble along.

    Mr. President, now that the transportation mask mandate has ended, please drop the pre-entry COVID testing requirement as well. Unless hard data exists there is no evidence that it ever stopped a variant. And since it only applies to air travel and is not used for crossing the border by land or sea that defeats this purpose too. Also, apparently some resorts just print results without testing so it is of questionable value. In the end we have a meaningless exercise that costs the public money and interferes with international trade and travel. It’s like a having a dam across a dead flat lake, a structure which does nothing. It is time to repeal this rule.

  6. @CM @Gennady

    I was mocking the quote from the Transportation Director. Testing needed gone yesterday.

  7. We are not anywhere near where we were in 2020.
    Citizens were told the vaccination process is the way out of the pandemic and we need herd immunity. We have achieved both.
    Time to ease up on the pre-testing, especially for folks who are fully vaccinated with booster shots.

  8. CDC won’t do a damn thing that moves the needle further to them being irrelevant again. This administration is a catastrophe beyond my wildest nightmares.

  9. Biden and many of his fellow Democrats are control freaks and feel as though they know what’s best for the rest of us. The pre-entry test does very little and is expensive and a nuisance. It’s past time for it’s elimination.

  10. Pointless. I’m about to fly tomorrow from SCL to the US and commenting here on my way to a Covid test(!).
    At least its fairly priced, and quite organized here at Sanatiago.
    But, just soooo pointless.

  11. I have mixed feelings on this topic. Selfishly, I don’t want to be stuck overseas if a family member or I test positive. OTOH i don’t want to be on an airplane with sick people (COVID or anything else that is infectious). I suppose that people are able to protect themselves with N95 valve masks but that’s not 100% – the better protection is for sick people to wear masks but that requirement is gone.

  12. @skooby, people die everyday in car accidents, so let’s get rid of cars. Heck just stay inside the rest of your life and live in a bubble. I swear…

  13. @your daddy

    I was mocking the transportation director. I have no clue what you’re talking about.

  14. @Boraxo:

    I get what you are saying. But if you connect in the US, you are going to get on a plane with a bunch of passengers who haven’t been tested anyway. So unless you have a non-stop to your final destination, is this really accomplishing anything?

  15. @Skooby – sorry. Sarcasm and irony don’t come thru in electronic communications…There was no telling if you were serious, or mocking anyone.

  16. Gary,
    we just returned from Italy, and our last day was consumed with getting the test. And paying for it. Which was extremely annoying, because it interfered with our vacation plans.

    I want to start a campaign to get this absolutely useless, moronic requirement abolished. I was planning on writing, and then meeting in person, both of my Senators, my Representative, and writing to the WH.

    If you know of a better, or more effective method, I would love to hear about it. If enough of us do it, maybe Pete the hypocrite will finally abandon this cabooky theater of fake safety.

  17. “OTOH i don’t want to be on an airplane with sick people…”

    How have you possibly flown in the past? What method did you employ to guarantee you weren’t flying with “sick people”?

  18. I’m collecting reasons to abandon the COVID test as a requirement for entry to the USA.
    Here are the reasons, in random order:
    – tests are not reliable and are prone to be wrong
    – many places sell negative test results
    – the test results are only checked by airline personnel at the airport; they can’t possibly determine if the result are valid.
    – the negative test doesn’t guarantee the passenger is not infected
    – 24 hrs before flight is an unnecessary burden for travelers
    – the tests don’t prevent infections getting into the country
    – many countries have eliminated the tests requirements, w/o any impact
    – fully vaccinated (boosted, etc.) passengers are already protected from infections; anyone who needs protection can get a shot
    I welcome your additions.

  19. On a purely selfish basis, the test has closed off large parts of the world for me. I recently traveled to Europe and tested positive on a self-test the day before my return, so I had to isolate as best I could in an AirBNB that I was able to book. That led me to impose on myself a limit on international travel to the effect of “would you be okay being trapped there?” To me that meant no travel to anywhere in the Americas south of the US with the possible exception of Argentina and some neighboring countries. Africa? No way. Asia, no way with the possible exception of Japan, and they are not exactly open right now. Pacific islands, no way with the possible exception of French Polynesia. As long as this test requirement exists, I would advise thinking through getting trapped in the country you are leaving from, and whether that is a place you would mind getting trapped in.

  20. I agree with Gennady. I know so one who flew back from Scotland with a negative test, but was confirm with COVID the next day with COVID in the US. Which met they had COVID when traveling.

  21. @Gennady–

    “– the negative test doesn’t guarantee the passenger is not infected”

    You said it! Our 29 yr-old, healthy daughter, 3x vaxxed, came to visit us, 2 gray-hair geezers. Day 5 in our small condo and guess what, she has full-blown Covid with head-to- toe rash, nausea, headache, no taste, no smell. She is with us for almost a month, nothing we can do to save ourselves from exposure. What’s gonna happen is gonna happen. We tested ourselves daily, but she was the only one with the double pink Covid line on the test.

    Here it is 6 weeks later and hubby and I are thinking about getting the 4x booster, but I said, hey, let’s go get the antibody test, first, see how things stand. Mine came in at 7,000+ and his was 2,500+, indicating we both had recent Covid cases.

    So, yeah, hubby and I both had negative tests, but we were both infected, and have the antibodies to prove it.

  22. Those antigen tests work better if the throat is swabbed too. Omicron takes several days to show up with a nasal swab. However, the best test is a PCR.

  23. People write letter, engage their elected officials & we see movement. Refreshing to see with so much synacism everywhere.

  24. A perfect post to celebrate 1 million Americans dead. Yes, it’s not a typo.

    What a joke of a country it has become.

  25. @Jake, and what do you propose to bring those people back to life? Right now the seven-day rolling average for deaths in the U.S. is at its lowest level since March 2020 when the pandemic was first declared. What will it take for some of you to be willing to let life fully resume again?

  26. @Conny says herd immunity had been achieved. Well, sort of, maybe, or not.. Possibly against the original strain, but not against the myriad other strains since then including Ormicron and its sub-variants.
    So Conny, it’s a big NO.
    Vaccination (3 shots) is the only way forward to give you maximum protection.
    Sitting back unvaccinated, relying on the majority (the ‘herd’) to protect you is a fool’s game and won’t work. Get vaccinated now!

  27. Does this mean I don’t get to spend half of the last day of my vacation submitting information to Verifly? I’m really going to miss that app…..

  28. Wells folks, think about this. You can drive into the US, you can walk into the US, you can swim into the US and you can take a cruise into the US, all without taking a Covid test. The only travel that requires a test is air transportable. Explain that please

  29. @James N
    At least he has flown in the past, that’s more than you can say, Jimmie the mask crybaby hiding behind his front door. Whaa, Whaa, Whaa.

  30. Add this test requirement to masking, social distancing (what a misnomer), and lockdowns as responses to an airborne microscopic pathogen that yielded little statistically significant benefit while imposing costs, inconvenience, and tyrannical enforcement.

  31. Joe Biden has now killed over 1 million people with Covid. I’m not sure that “progress” is the word I’d use.

  32. I have no idea why we’re still forced to do this unless it’s in the vain hope of in some way extending vote by mail.
    The cost is now down, figure roughly $50 per, but the disruption of the day-before hasn’t. I binned a business trip to Poland from the UK just because of the uncertainty and hassle of getting a test at LHR and hoping to fly out the next morning.
    But what really lights me up is the unwashed masses encouraged to swarm over our Southern border, who, of course, have to get a day-before COVID test, right?
    Let’s go, Brandon.

  33. Two months ago, I took a mileage run to Mexico with 2 layovers. Return trip started on Sunday, layover on Monday, and travel to USA on Tuesday. Took COVID-19 antigen test 24 hours before start of return itinerary, negative. Was advised by Mexican airlines that needed to retest on Monday, negative, connected to USA flight and was advised that the test must be retaken as the last test within 24 hours…….. tested positive. Denied boarding, escorted to quarantine facilities. 10 days in quarantine, asymptomatic, no fever, no signs. Two additional Ani then tests administered. One negative and one positive. PCR test ordered, waited 2 days, positive, told to quarantine 10 more days. Left in the morning, took flight to Tijuana and walked across border with no test and a promise to self quarantine for 2 weeks. 3 weeks later and 2 PCR tests administered, one negative and one positive. NO travel insurance and an additional $3,188.00 USD in additional hotels, food, medical care, flight, and headaches.

  34. I can almost guarantee mandatory masking is coming back plus mandatory 2x boosting, both to somewhat limited effect. I go to London on the 27th and return on June 3 and pray I don’t test positive on my way back to the US. Would totally screw June travel plans.

  35. @Francis Bagbey – no way! Not with current mood in the country. But we’ll know in a 10 days, won’t we?

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