Effective January 26, 2021, all travelers flying into the United States must present test results showing they are free of COVID-19. This applies to US citizens and residents as well as foreign nationals and anyone two years of age and older. That’s according to an order issued by Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield, M.D.
The order requires that before boarding any flight to the US, passengers must provide a negative viral test result on a specimen collected no more than three days prior to departure, or, if the person recovered from COVID within the preceding 90 days and tests positive for antibodies, a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or public health official stating they are cleared for travel (Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19 ). This requirement will apply to all passengers on all flights entering the US, even when connecting to another flight for travel to another country. It also applies to those who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Additionally, airlines and private and charter flight operators, will be required to have all passengers read and sign a disclosure called an Attestation Form prior to embarking on a flight. The form is a declaration attesting to having received the required test results. Parents and guardians will need to complete a form for children up to 17 years old. This is required before any aircraft may enter and disembark passengers in the United States. The airline keeps the Attestation Form, but upon arrival in the US, travelers should be prepared to produce their test results upon request to any government official or cooperating state or local public health authority.
The required tests must be a viral test or a viral antigen test. Viral tests are NAAT (nucleic acid amplification tests) and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests. This type of testing, also called molecular testing, is done by swabbing the nose or mouth or collecting saliva. The sample must have been taken within three days of departure to the US. Test results must state “Negative” or “Not Detected.” A test marked “invalid” is not acceptable.
Passengers arriving via one or more connecting flights are subject to the same requirement, but the connecting flights must be booked as a single passenger record (on the same itinerary) with a destination in the US. Each connection may not be longer than 24 hours. If a delayed flight causes a traveler’s test to fall outside of the three-day pre-departure testing period requirement the traveler must be re-tested to enter the US.
Enforcement will be quite stringent, as airlines, flight operators and passengers who fail to comply with the requirements, or who provide false or misleading information, are subject to fines and criminal penalties.
Also, the new requirements do not replace the Presidential Proclamation barring travelers from China, Iran, Europe’s Schengen area, the UK, Ireland and Brazil. At this writing that proclamation was still in place. Until the proclamation is lifted by incoming President Joe Biden, travelers from these areas will remain barred from entry to the US.
The new test requirements for the US are the result of spiking resurgences of COVID-19 abroad and the appearance of several variant strains: one from the United Kingdom, one from South Africa and a third from South America. The new strains are reportedly more transmissible than previously circulating variants. Approximately 120 countries now use testing to control introduction and spread.
The CDC director’s order and responses to Frequently Asked Questions are available for review on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html. All travelers coming to the US, including returning US citizens and residents, should take the time to review the information in detail.
SCI members with questions about hunting travel may also contact SCI’s Hunter Information Service at safariclub.org/contact.