By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government is set to end enhanced screening of some international passengers for COVID-19 and drop requirements that travelers coming from the targeted countries arrive at 15 designated U.S. airports, according to U.S. and airline officials and a government document seen by Reuters.
The changes are set to take effect as early as Monday, according to the draft rollout plan seen by Reuters, but the move could still be delayed, U.S. officials said.
The administration in February imposed enhanced screening requirements on travelers who had been in China, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Iran and the Schengen region of Europe, and barred most non-U.S. citizens who have been in those locations from coming to the United States.
The document seen by Reuters says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “is shifting its strategy and prioritizing other public health measures to reduce the risk of travel-related disease transmission.” It said that of 675,000 passengers screened at the 15 airports, “fewer than 15 have been identified as having COID-19.”
A spokesman for the CDC did not immediately comment.
The “current entry strategy for international arrivals only covers a small portion of the traveling public, requires significant resources and is not sustainable as travel volumes increase,” document said.
Those travelers, who numbered around 6,750 a day as of late August, undergo visual observations, temperature checks and complete traveler declarations. Anyone showing signs of illness or possible exposure is referred for public health assessments.
Airlines for America, a group representing American Airlines <AAL.O>, Delta Air Lines <DAL.N> and United Airlines <UAL.O>, said the group supports “spending scarce screening resources where they can best be utilized and no longer believe that it makes sense to continue screening at these 15 airports given the extremely low number of passengers identified by the CDC as potentially having a health issue.”
The plan to halt the checks was reported earlier by Yahoo News.
Last month, Reuters reported that the Trump administration’s efforts to require airlines to collect contact tracing information from U.S.-bound international passengers had stalled, citing five people briefed on the matter, and that such a mandate is unlikely this year.
Major airlines and administration officials held talks for months over a long-standing effort by the CDC to mandate the collection and reporting of tracing information from passengers arriving in the United States from foreign destinations.
The administration also considered requiring temperature checks for all U.S. air travelers and facial coverings at U.S. airports, but opted not to adopt either mandate.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sandra Maler, Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)