United States Requires All Air Arrivals To Have Negative Covid-19 Test Effective January 26, 2021


More nations have started to require a negative Covid-19 test to board flights destined to the country. Some require expensive and sometimes hard to get PCR-RT while others accept an antigen one too (faster and cheap).

The United States is joining countries that require all air arrivals, including its citizens and residents, to have a negative viral test (I would assume antigen is acceptable too) administered no longer than 3 days before departure.

Here’s the announcement from the CDC:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to all air passengers entering the United States.  Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19. This strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more efficiently protects the health of Americans.

Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants.  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.

Before departure to the United States, a required test, combined with the CDC recommendations to get tested again 3-5 days after arrival and stay home for 7 days post-travel, will help slow the spread of COVID-19 within US communities from travel-related infections. Pre-departure testing with results known and acted upon before travel begins will help identify infected travelers before they board airplanes.

Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.

“Testing does not eliminate all risk,” says CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, “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.”

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


It should not be a surprise that the United States will soon require this test, although not convinced what it does at this stage of the pandemic. It might have deterred travel and spread of infections if implemented 6 to 9 months ago.

I am sure that some are surprised that their PCR-RT test returns a positive result when they had Covid-19 weeks or months before. The test is good at picking up parts of the virus RNA, no longer infectious, that may linger in your body for a while (happened to me).

You can also enter the United States by foot from Mexico, I would assume. Canadians can enter the country by air only, not through the land border.

This test requirement will further lessen the international travel demand to/from the United States. That I assume is its purpose.