The United States government announced it will stop COVID-19 screenings of international travelers from certain countries starting Monday.
Flights from those countries will no longer be required to reroute to select U.S. airports.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a press release it will instead change its strategy to focus on “pre-departure and post-arrival education, efforts to develop a potential testing framework with international partners and illness response.”
The practice put in place earlier this year required airlines to reroute individuals who had traveled within certain countries, such as mainland China, Iran and the Schengen Area of Europe, within the past 14 days to 15 U.S. airports designated for screenings. Upon arrival into the U.S., those individuals would undergo basic medical examinations, which included questions about medical history, symptoms and travel history. The policy also required flights from those countries to be rerouted.
“We now have a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms,” the CDC said in a press release. “Transmission of the virus may occur from passengers who have no symptoms or who have not yet developed symptoms of infection.”
Starting next week, the agency said resources will be dedicated to “more effective mitigation efforts,” including health education for passengers, voluntary collection of contact information from passengers and potential testing to reduce the risk of travel-related transmission of the virus.
“By refocusing our mitigation efforts on individual passenger risk throughout the air travel journey, the USG can most effectively protect the health of the American public,” the CDC said.
This move comes as major U.S. airlines add more international destinations to their schedules. United Airlines announced earlier this week it plans to expand its global route network with new nonstop service to Africa and India.
“We continue to support 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,” Airlines for America (A4A), a group that lobbies on behalf of major U.S. airlines, said.