US-bound travellers will need a negative COVID-19 test to enter
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If you’re travelling to the United States from abroad, prepare to pack a negative COVID-19 test.
On Tuesday, 12 January, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. was preparing to issue an order requiring all travellers arriving in the United States — U.S. citizens included — to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test. It’s not yet known which types of test will be accepted, or how close to departure the test will need to be taken.
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According to the Journal, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may issue an order as early as Tuesday, 12 January, which is expected to go into effect on 26 January, just days into the new Biden administration.
The U.S. is behind the curve on requiring negative COVID-19 tests to enter. Dozens of countries worldwide, such as Aruba, Egypt and Zambia, all require a negative COVID-19 for entry. Even some states have stricter entry requirements, such as New York, which rolled out testing requirements in early November.
And on Monday, the U.K. government announced that all international arrivals into England would need a negative COVID-19 test result starting on Friday. England entered its third national lockdown earlier this month after a more infectious strain of the coronavirus was identified. It has since spread across the globe.
The news comes during a dark period in the pandemic in the U.S., which remains one of the most hard-hit countries, where almost 350,000 people have died from COVID-19. Positive cases around the country have soared, particularly in California, where available intensive care unit beds have dipped under 20%.
The travel industry praised the news.
“This is undoubtedly good news, and we welcome it,” said Taylor Garland from the Association of Flight Attendants. “But the bigger concern is that most people in the United States are flying domestically today.”
While several airlines have banned travellers for not wearing masks, the United States does not have a federal mask mandate for commercial airlines even though CDC recommended it.
There’s also the issue of the tests themselves. There are many different types of coronavirus tests available, though we do not yet know which ones will be valid for entry into the U.S. The current gold standard of COVID-19 testing is the PCR test, which detects active COVID-19 infections.
But there are also rapid antigen tests to check for proteins on the virus’s surface and antibody tests (a blood test that can identify if a previous COVID-19 infection caused your immune system to produce COVID-19 antibodies). These tests can have high false-negative rates, experts have said.
“As we’ve seen outside of the aviation industry, one negative test one day doesn’t negate a positive test the next, so you need to take a layered approach,” Garland said.
Featured photo from Valencia, Spain by Xisco Navarro/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.
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