International travel just got a lot easier.
The Biden administration announced Friday that from Sunday the United States will no longer require a pre-departure COVID-19 test to enter the country.
According to a senior official, the requirement will be lifted at 12:01 a.m. ET. The rule change comes more than a year after the county began demanding a negative test for entry and more than two years since the pandemic began.
Current eligibility requirements require airline passengers to undergo a negative viral coronavirus test no more than one day before boarding their flight to the US. The rule applies to all travelers regardless of their vaccination status or citizenship, but grants waivers to travelers 2 years and older and who have recently recovered from the virus.
The decision came, the official said, because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined, based on science, that the requirement is no longer necessary. The decision will be reviewed in 90 days and the health authority plans to review it continuously.
If it becomes necessary to reintroduce the pre-departure testing requirement (in the case of new, affected variants, for example), the official continued, the CDC will plan to do so.
A number of other countries, including the UK, have already dropped pre-departure testing requirements for fully vaccinated visitors.
Requirements for travelers entering the US by land or ferry remain unchanged: non-US citizens, nationals, and permanent residents can only enter if they are fully vaccinated. There is no testing requirement for land ports or ferry terminals.
“Do travel restrictions work?”
The World Health Organization urged countries in January not to rely on a vaccination certificate as a condition of visiting a country†
Under the new US entry requirements, unvaccinated citizens and permanent residents with a negative test will be able to enter, but most foreigners will still need proof of full vaccination to enter.
The mandates contradict findings showing that travel restrictions slow the spread of the virus but do little to prevent it.
“We know that travel restrictions cannot stop the spread of these pathogens, especially if you have a new pathogen that mainly spreads when people are asymptomatic or mild,” Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 technical leader, told USA TODAY in February. “You can slow the spread, but it won’t stop the spread.”
Stewart Simonson, deputy director-general of the WHO’s New York office, added at the time that while travel restrictions may work “as a domestic political matter”, their effectiveness as a public health measure is less certain.
“Do (travel restrictions) show the public that something is being done? If that’s your perspective, then they work,” Simonson said. “Do they work from a public health perspective? Do they reduce the rate of spread or the spread itself? That’s another important way of looking at it, and there’s a lot of uncertainty.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz†