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January 15, 2021

Traveling abroad? Get a COVID-19 test before coming home, CDC says

All international passengers — even those who have been vaccinated — must present a negative test before boarding

Travel COVID-19
COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

New COVID-19 travel restrictions require all international passengers to present a negative test before boarding a flight into the U.S. Above, the Philadelphia International Airport prior to the pandemic.

International travelers will need to add another item to their travel checklists before returning home: getting a COVID-19 test. 

Beginning Jan. 26, all passengers on international flights traveling into the U.S. must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, per a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirement. The tests must be taken within three days of the flight.

Airlines are expected to enforce the policy and deny passengers who cannot provide a negative test or proof from boarding the flight, according to the CDC.

People who have recovered from the coronavirus within the last three months can bypass the testing requirement if they can provide documentation of their positive test results and clearances from a licensed health care provider. Passengers who have received a COVID-19 vaccine must still must provide a negative test result.

Philadelphia International Airport officials said they have been communicating with the CDC about these regulations and are working with airlines to ensure they follow protocols.

"Philadelphia International Airport is committed to supporting policies that enable safe travel during the COVID-19 crisis," an airport spokesperson said in an email. "PHL currently offers limited international travel at this time."

Passengers traveling through Philadelphia International Airport can use the Jefferson Health COVID-19 Testing Clinic for testing, the spokesperson said. 

The site, located in terminal E, offers standard polymerase chain reaction and rapid PCR tests that range in cost from $70 to $130. Rapid test results will be texted to passengers the same day. Standard test results come back within 48 to 72 hours. 

Though the travel industry has largely halted amid the pandemic, Americans are reportedly swarming beach locations in the Caribbean and Mexico — an effect of most European countries being closed to U.S. residents. 

Current U.S. travel restrictions only require negative tests from passengers traveling from the United Kingdom, where a highly contagious variant has prompted a strict lockdown. That measure has been in effect since Dec. 27.

Soon, travelers returning from any international locations will have to show a negative test result before boarding their plane home.

American Airlines said it will require passengers to fill out the CDC attestation form either digitally or on a printed copy in addition to presenting a negative test result before boarding a plane to the U.S.

For United Airlines flights to the U.S. from the U.K., the airline has been asking for test documentation in the ticket lobby.

The CDC said people who provide false results or information will be subject to criminal fines and imprisonment.

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