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US Ends Enhanced Screening for International Arrivals

CDC says resources will be refocused on other mitigation strategies, including developing testing protocols

September 9, 2020

Beginning Monday, Sept. 14, the US government will end some of its enhanced health screening protocols for airline passengers arriving on international flights. The procedures, which had been initiated in January, called for passengers arriving from or who had recently been in certain countries to land at one of 15 designated airports.

As of Monday, the measures will be lifted on flights from China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, the Schengen countries of Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Brazil. Arriving passengers will no longer be subject to enhanced entry health screenings.

Instead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mitigation efforts will be refocused on individual passenger risk throughout the air travel journey. The measures the CDC is recommending include:

• Pre-departure, in-flight, and post-arrival health education for passengers

• Voluntary digital contact tracing

• Potential testing protocols

• Country-specific risk assessments

• Post-arrival recommendations for passenger self-monitoring.

“We now have a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness,” said the CDC in a statement. “Therefore, CDC is shifting its strategy and prioritizing other public health measures to reduce the risk of travel-related disease transmission.”

According to a document reportedly obtained by Reuters, since the program took effect in January, 15 arriving passengers had been identified as having COVID-19. During the same time period, Reuters reports the document indicated that approximately 675,000 arriving passengers had undergone enhanced health screenings since the start of the program.

So far, there has been no confirmation of the report from either the CDC or the Transportation Security Administration.