U.S. dropping airport testing restrictions for Canadians and other travellers
This weekend is shaping up to be a huge step back to the pre-lockdown world. Most remaining mask mandates will come to an end in Ontario on Saturday, and travel will also be getting easier, as the U.S. government has announced the end of pre-departure testing for international air travellers effective Sunday at 12:01 a.m.
The move from the Biden administration comes after heavy lobbying from airlines and the travel industry, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determining that pre-testing is no longer necessary in curbing the spread of the virus.
Testing mandates have been in place in U.S. airports since Jan. 2021, when Joe Biden took office. All passengers of international flights were required to undergo testing within three days of departure, later shortened to one day in December when the Omicron variant took over and new restrictions were imposed.
For whatever reasons, these rules only applied to international flights, and no such restrictions were imposed for land border crossings. This created a loophole for Toronto sports teams, riding buses across the border and boarding flights from nearby U.S. airports.
Testing restrictions may be coming to an end, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be gone for good. According to Reuters, the CDC will re-assess this decision in three months.
"If there is a need to reinstate a pre-departure testing requirement — including due to a new, concerning variant — CDC will not hesitate to act," an official told Reuters.
The announcement's timing — right at the beginning of a hectic travel season in Canada and the states — was made under heavy pressure from airlines and other businesses dependent on travel.
It's just one obstacle removed from international travel, though, and before anti-vaxxers race to book trips to the states, they should know that the CDC still requires most non-U.S. citizens to show proof of vaccination to enter the country.
And even if testing is no longer part of the equation as of Monday, that doesn't mean flying between Toronto and a U.S. destination will be much easier.
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