WASHINGTON (CBS SF) — Health officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday announced plans to expand the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to all air passengers entering the United States starting later this month.

“Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19,” the release issued by the CDC read. “This strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more efficiently protects the health of Americans.”

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The announcement noted that variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were still emerging in countries across the globe, with at least one variant showing evidence of increased transmissibility.

“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.

Last month, the CDC announced that all air travelers arriving in the United States from the United Kingdom would be required to test negative for COVID-19 before departure.

Officials are hopeful that the current required test prior to departure to the United States, combined with CDC recommendations for travelers to get tested again 3-5 days after arrival in the U.S. and quarantine at home for 7 days after returning to the U.S. will help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Air passengers are currently required to get a viral test for current infection within three days before flying to the U.S. and provide either paper or electronic documentation of their laboratory test result to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19.

Airlines are required to confirm negative test results for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. All airlines are required to deny boarding if a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the CDC said.

“Testing does not eliminate all risk, 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,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said in the release.

The new order was signed by the CDC Director on January 12 and will become effective on January 26, 2021.

Additional advisory information for international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic is posted at the CDC website.

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