U.S.'s COVID test requirement for UK travelers should extend to other nations -U.S. official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A senior U.S. public health official on Tuesday said the coronavirus testing the United States is requiring for travelers from Britain should probably be extended to other countries as well.

FILE PHOTO: ADM Brett Giroir, MD, Assistant Secretary For Health, United States Department of Health and Human Services, testifies before a U.S. Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee at a hearing to examine COVID-19, focusing on an update on the federal response at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., September 23, 2020. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS

“I think that probably should be extended to other countries,” U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir told MSNBC.

The U.S. government on Monday began requiring all airline passengers arriving from the United Kingdom to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure — including U.S. citizens — amid concerns about a new coronavirus variant that may be more transmissible.

The decision was a turnaround after the Trump administration had told U.S. airlines it was not planning to require testing for arriving UK passengers.

The Trump administration is holding some discussions with U.S. airlines about the possibility of expanding testing regimes but no decisions have been made, officials said.

One key issue remains whether the White House would agree to drop restrictions that bar most non-U.S. citizens from coming to the United States if they have been in much of Europe or Brazil within the last 14 days.

In November, Reuters reported the White House was considering rescinding those entry bans that cover the 26 members of the Schengen area that allow travel across open borders, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Brazil.

Giroir noted on Tuesday the restrictions have led to a 90% to 95% decrease in travel from Britain.

It is not clear if the variant is in the United States, Giroir said, adding: “It might be here…. I think we have an advantage because travel has been restricted since March.”

The Trump administration imposed the bans in an effort to contain the coronavirus. It is not considering lifting separate entry bans on most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in China or Iran, officials said.

Some administration and airline officials say requiring negative COVID-19 tests for international passengers could allow the White House to drop the restrictions on most non-U.S. residents traveling from Brazil and European countries.

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