What’s Going On with the Travel Testing Requirements?

While countries, along with Canada and the United Kingdom, have raised their Covid testing requirements for vaccinated foreigners in recent months, some Americans are angry that they still have to show a negative test to board a flight back to the United States.

Jason Miller, a 37-year-old computer programmer living in Texas, is so confused by the law he recently sent a letter to the White House and several lawmakers and began urging others to do the same. “I support the CDC, I still wear the N95 mask when I am in a crowd and when I travel,” he said. But, he no longer sees the law as valuable, in large part because “the experiment has not prevented the dialect from entering the country.”

Some travelers have posted similar comments on social media, and a good portion of the American travel industry has made that clear.

But they have received little satisfaction from the Biden administration and public health officials.

On May 6, Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said she was “not aware of the timetable” to end the need for testing and that the administration would base its decision on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As for what, in particular, the CDC uses to determine whether testing is still necessary, a spokesman for the agency made a vague statement that it “looks at different indicators” and “evaluates all guidelines and directives according to the latest science and conditions. Catastrophic.”

The mandatory test has not only created material problems, it has basically changed the experience of international travel, travelers say.

“It was always in front of my mind,” said Danielle Bradbury, 42, who recently spent 12 days in Israel working on her medical equipment while her husband cared for their two children in Boston. “Every time I left the hotel, I wondered, ‘How dangerous is it to be unable to get home and keep myself inside?”

In January 2021, when the CDC first enacted a law requiring all travelers traveling to the United States 2 years of age and older to show a negative test or proof of recovery before boarding a plane, the United States joined a sea of ​​countries trying different ways to slow down. . The virus spreads across borders. A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announcing the requirement contributed to the difficulty of obtaining an exam abroad, suggesting that the law also aims to discourage Americans from traveling internationally. At that time less than 10 percent of Americans were vaccinated and the number of cases was increasing, reaching a record of more than 300,000 new cases on January 8.

The test was not the first travel restriction that the United States had imposed. In the winter of 2020, President Trump banned foreigners from China, large parts of Europe, Brazil and Iran. When President Biden came to power he laid the groundwork for a review of the travel ban. (He also extended the ban to India.)

By the end of 2021, the United States lifted the country’s special bans and doubled its attempts, shortening the window from within three travel days to one day, even for vaccinated Americans. By that time it was clear that vaccinated people could also spread the coronavirus. (Many foreigners who have not been vaccinated from abroad were barred from entering the country, even on probation.)

It depends on how you define success, said Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, a professor of health policy at Stanford University. If success were to reduce the number of infected people who flew to the United States, he said, the need for testing made that possible.

“It certainly prevented people who tested the virus from entering the aircraft and certainly prevented a certain amount of infection on the aircraft and in the airports,” he said.

The exact number of infected people who were prevented from boarding the plane is unknown, however, because no one is tracking whether a passenger cancel a trip because of Covid. Much of the evidence is legendary; Most people have a story about HIV testing before flying home.

If success means putting a new dialect abroad, then it failed, said Dr. William Omrice, chairman of the pharmaceutical and pathology laboratory at the Mayo Clinic.

“The reality is that none of these measures have prevented the rapid spread of any kind of anxiety,” he said.

But if success was not preventing the arrival of a new dialect, but rather delaying their arrival so that hospitals and authorities could be more prepared, then it might have worked. Mark Jit, professor of immunization at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has studied the effectiveness of travel requirements, said that this is the measure that works best.

“Testing can prevent peaks from being reached quickly,” he said.

Still, once the dialect has already spread throughout the country, he discovered, the attempt to travel has little effect.

Information from the authorities includes readiness to enter the new phase of the epidemic, high coverage rates and the determination that new alternatives can be controlled.

“The current dialect makes people sick and the number of people receiving intensive care is small,” the Dutch government said in a statement issued in March, concluding its travel test, among other Covid-related recommendations.

The basic argument is that it does not do well enough to fix the problem.

Dr. Tom Frieden, who was director of the CDC during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, was among those who made the point. “Among the most effective vaccines we have with Paxlovid, which is a very effective treatment, Omicron is less deadly than the flu for many years and we do not need people to test for fever before boarding a plane,” he said. “If a more dangerous dialect occurs,” he noted, “that is a very different situation.”

Some say that it does not make sense to bother many people with a system that is full of holes. Antigen tests – one option for travelers to the United States – are unreliable in the early stages of infection, said Anne Wyllie, a biologist at Yale School of Public Health. For this reason he called the need a “sanitary exhibition hall.”

The requirement for testing is not only annoying for travelers, it is economically harmful, according to the US Travel Association, a group of traders. In a recent letter to Dr. Ashish K. Jha, co-ordinator of the White House Covid, signed by more than 260 businesses, including airlines, pilots, casinos, tourist boards, Disney Parks and zoos, the group said “related economic costs. Maintaining a measure is important. “

“In view of the slow recovery of the global trade and transportation sector economy, and in view of the advances in medical treatment and improved public health tests in the United States, we urge you to immediately eliminate the need for in-house testing for vaccinated air travelers,” he said. the group wrote.

A study approved by the group found that 46 percent of international travelers would be more likely to visit the United States without that need. A similar study by Points Guy, a website that specializes in travel and points and miles of credit card, found that more than half of its participating readers would be more likely to travel abroad unnecessarily.

Meegan Zickus, who runs the Facebook group of people with weakened immune systems, said that testing has become more important since the need for a mask disappeared. Without the need for testing, most travelers will not bother to test or stay home, even if they suspect they are infected, he said.

“In light of the past two years, the only way to protect others is through some form of experimental experimentation,” he said, because “the moral compass is directly directed at selfishness.”

Dr. Seema Yasmin, a public health doctor and director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative, supported the move. “I would say that it can provide a high level of reassurance when 75 percent of people are not wearing masks and may even cough and sneeze loudly,” Drs. Yasmin said.

(Although aircraft ventilation systems appear to significantly reduce the spread of coronavirus, research shows that people living within a few rows are still at risk for each other.)

“Some tests are better than none,” said Nathaniel Hafer, a molecular biologist at UMass medical school.

Many countries also use testing to promote vaccination by eliminating the need for vaccinated people, said Meghan Benton, research director at the Institute for Immigration Policy, which monitors travel needs. The United States encourages vaccination in its own way by preventing many uninfected foreigners from entering.

Considering that there are currently at least four cases pending against the need for international testing, some wonder if it could be overturned by a judge’s decision, as the need to wear a helmet on aircraft and other forms of transportation was in April.

Lawrence O. Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown Law, does not think so. The CDC may require testing from foreigners entering the country from abroad because of the Public Health Care Act, which was clearly designed to prevent the introduction of dangerous infectious diseases in the United States, he said.

The law, he said, “would be extremely difficult to compete successfully in court, even for conservative judges.”

Leave a Comment