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Airline passengers to US must get negative COVID-19 test first, CDC says

The CDC says passengers headed to the U.S. must get a viral test within three days before departure.

As new, more transmissible variants of the new coronavirus have emerged, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will require anyone flying to the United States to test negative for COVID-19 starting Jan. 26.

"With the US 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," the CDC said in a statement.

The CDC says passengers headed to the U.S. must get a viral test within three days before departure and it is recommended they get tested again three-to-five days after arrival and stay home for at least seven days.

Passengers must provide written or electronic documentation of their negative test to the airline. Those who refuse to do so must be denied boarding, the CDC says.

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“Testing does not eliminate all risk,” says CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. “but when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations.”

Health experts have expressed that the new variants that have emerged, notably one from the U.K., do not appear to make the symptoms from COVID-19 any more severe, but they do increase the likelihood of passing the virus person-to-person.

The U.S. is averaging about 218,000 new cases per day over the past week and 3,234 deaths per day from COVID-19, reports Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 7,800 people are currently on ventilators in the U.S., according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.