Beginning Jan. 26, the CDC will require all people who plan to enter the U.S. on a commercial flight to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test prior to boarding.
"Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants," the agency said late Tuesday afternoon. "With the U.S. already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public."
Air passengers will be required to get tested within three days of their flight to the U.S. or otherwise provide documentation of having recovered from Covid-19. Airlines will be required to deny boarding to any person who does not provide the required documentation.
The CDC will accept results of molecular PCR tests as well as the less reliable rapid antigen tests, spokesman Jason McDonald said.
The agency will also recommend that travelers get tested for the virus three to five days after entering the U.S. from abroad and that they stay home for seven days after entry.
The testing requirement will follow the CDC's implementation late last month of a similar protocol for all flyers from the U.K., where a new, more contagious, strain of Covid-19 had already taken hold.
A global testing requirement has support from U.S. airlines, but only if it replaces entry bans on travelers from the EU, the U.K. and Brazil. Such a move would be an efficient way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 while opening up economic activity, Airlines for America CEO Nick Calio told Vice President Mike Pence in a Jan. 4 letter.