The American Society of Travelers (ASTA) has requested the White House to lift pre-departure COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated inbound American travelers in a letter dated Feb.1.
Such policy was implemented in December as a reaction to the discovery of the highly-contagious Omicron strain when the scientific community had insufficient data to advise governments on the best course of action.
In the letter to Jeffrey Zients, COVID-19 Recovery Team Coordinator for the White House, ASTA’s executive vice president, advocacy, Eben Peck, states that pre-departure testing for Americans is “the single biggest barrier to the full recovery of our international travel system.”
The vice president acknowledges the reasoning behind the requirement but points out the real-life obstacles that pre-departure testing poses to the members of his organization and their customers.
The difficulties, according to Peck, vary from “uncertainty as to the availability of timely testing in-destination to avoid disruption to their return trip to the financial and psychological burdens associated with being prevented from returning home due to a positive result.”
The recent reduction in the testing window from 72 to 24 hours has further added to the difficulties passengers face when booking a ticket home from overseas.
Peck also mentions the international consensus that being fully vaccinated should suffice for a passenger to be permitted to board a plane.
He appears to be referring to the World Health Organization, which just a few days ago urged countries to lift or reduce COVID-19-related travel restrictions, claiming that those could increase the pandemic’s economic and social burden.
In that regard, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, and others, as well as the European Union, have decided to “partially” adopt the recommendation and no longer require inbound vaccinated residents to present pre-departure COVID-19 tests.
ASTA, however, goes further to say it does not believe that “vaccination should be a prerequisite to international travel.”
“We do believe a balance needs to be struck in terms of protecting public health without crippling the free flow of commerce and individuals across international borders.”