There’s a report on most of the major news sites right now indicating that The NY Times is reporting the US will require a negative COVID-19 test for all passengers entering the United States via plane from abroad. This would be a remarkable step. But it also may be a logical evolution of COVID-19 policy as it relates to travel.
While we don’t have exact details, reports seem to indicate that this could go into place January 26, 2021. Honestly, if this is needed to stop the spread of the more contagious variant we’ve seen from the UK, it would seem this should be put in place almost immediately. The obvious downside there is the chaos it would cause. Many countries aren’t setup for rapid testing, and it would make sense the US would require any test results would be fairly recent (likely within 72 hours of departure).
Further, the reports are that proof of the negative COVID-19 test would need to be shown prior to boarding a flight for the US. There are a number of international airports with US pre-clearance facilities. But, most international airports with service to the US don’t have a pre-clearance facility. That means setting up an outpost overseas or empowering airport or airline employees to verify test results.
As a small business owner who has dealt with COVID-19 in our restaurants I can tell you test results come in many shapes and sizes. Some are difficult to determine whether the person actually tested positive. There’s wholesale potential for fraud as well. There’s not much in the way of certification that test results came from a doctor or clinic.
One Mile at a Time shares his opinion that the US may be considering this in an attempt to discourage international travel in general. I definitely think that’s part of the motivation here. There’s also another likely consideration. I was having a discussion with Gilbert from God Save The Points a few weeks ago about Delta’s efforts to operate flights with a 1-in-a-million risk of catching COVID-19. He noted that countries will likely need some way to verify who has received a COVID-19 vaccine in the future.
As I think about that discussion, I could see the US trying to get a head start on that infrastructure. The same sorts of procedures that would require inspection of a negative test result could also be deployed to examine vaccine results or vaccine “passports”.
The Final Two Pennies
If true, this sort of an effort is likely to cause further disruption to international travel. Speaking only for myself, I would be even more cautious than I already am about traveling internationally with this requirement. I’d want to research my destination before booking travel. My biggest concern would be to make sure there were multiple resources to get a quick, reliable test result overseas. I’m already pretty conservative about travel since I haven’t gotten on an airplane in almost a year.
It still strikes me as odd that they would wait a couple weeks to put something like this in place. If it’s critically needed, I would think the right way forward would be to set up the safety net much sooner and work on exceptions.
Would this testing requirement discourage you from travel right now?
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