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Airlines urge US to lift pre-departure COVID testing requirements

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WASHINGTON — U.S. airlines are pressuring the Biden administration to lift a 16-month-old rule requiring almost all international air passengers, with few exceptions, to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the country.

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Airline executives say many Americans are not traveling overseas because they fear testing positive in a foreign country and then being stranded abroad. International air travel to the United States remains down about 15% from pre-pandemic levels.

Airlines for America, an industry group, said on Friday that a survey of its carriers estimated that scrapping testing rules would bring in 4.3 million more international passengers and $1.7 billion in additional revenue — and could result in an increase of 1.075 million foreign visitors and $2.1 billion in visitor spending.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported Thursday that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he doesn’t think the pre-departure rules “will be here forever,” but added that lifting them would force the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to be sure that “easing would not hurt”. the progress we have made against the virus.

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CDC declined to comment.

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Reuters and other reporters in Washington on Thursday that he had discussed the issue with Buttigieg and some U.S. lawmakers.

Shapps said the lower requirements had boosted Britain’s economy and had no impact on COVID-19 cases.

“It works to get rid of it. It’s been a huge boost to our tourism and travel industry,” Shapps said.

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He believes the United States is moving towards lifting the rules, but US officials have given no firm direction.

“My feeling is that it’s heading towards the end of the game. I think they realize that it has to go,” Shapps said. “My feeling is that by summer.”

The UK, Germany, Canada and many other countries have eliminated pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated travellers.