The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced that beginning next week U.S. officials will remove requirements directing all flights carrying airline passengers arriving from, or who recently were in, certain countries to land at one of 15 designated airports and also halt entry health screening for these passengers.
The requirements that had been in place mandated entry health screenings for those arriving from, or with recent presence in, China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, Iran, the Schengen region of Europe, the United Kingdom, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe, Ireland and Brazil.
“We now have a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms,” the CDC said in announcing the changed requirements. “Transmission of the virus may occur from passengers who have no symptoms or who have not yet developed symptoms of infection. Therefore, CDC is shifting its strategy and prioritizing other public health measures to reduce the risk of travel-related disease transmission.”
Federal health officials will instead devote resources to effective mitigation efforts focused on the individual passenger, including pre-departure, in-flight and post-arrival health education for passengers and robust illness response at airports.
The CDC also called for the voluntary collection of contact information from passengers using electronic means, country-specific risk assessments, and enhanced training and education of partners in the transportation sector U.S. ports of entry to ensure recognition of illness and immediate notification to CDC.
“By refocusing our mitigation efforts on individual passenger risk throughout the air travel journey, the USG (U.S. Government) can most effectively protect the health of the American public,” the CDC said.
Last week, Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) and Airlines for America (A4A) called for government pilot programs for COVID-19 testing for international flights.
“We continue to encourage governments to adopt risk-based and harmonized approaches to health and safety that will allow for the easing of international travel restrictions, including the reopening of the border between the United States and Canada,” said Kevin Burke, ACI-NA president and CEO. “A government pilot program to examine the efficacy of COVID-19 testing on international flights would be an important step toward reopening travel and restoring confidence as our industry begins to recover.