All airline passengers flying to the US will need a negative Covid-19 test from January 26.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding the requirement to all arriving air passengers.

“Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of Covid-19,” the CDC said.

“This strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more efficiently protects the health of Americans.”

The move comes as variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, with evidence of “increased transmissibility”.

The US Travel Association welcomed the new measures and called for quarantines to be removed.

“A testing requirement provides yet another layer of safety for international travel, and should be accompanied by other risk-based policies – including lifting international inbound travel restrictions and dropping any post-arrival quarantine requirements,” executive vice president of public affairs, Tori Emerson Barnes, said.

“With an international testing requirement in place, international visitors and returning residents would be tested at much higher rates than the general public and pose a much lower risk of transmitting the disease. So it would make sense to lift international travel restrictions and quarantine requirements at the same time.

“With a risk-based, layered approach to health and safety throughout every aspect of travel, it’s possible to both protect public health and allow travel to safely resume.”

The CDC said: “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.”

A pre-departure test 3 days before travel, combined with 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, according to the regulator.

“Pre-departure testing with results known and acted upon before travel begins will help identify infected travellers before they board airplanes,” the CDC

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.

CDC director Robert Redfield 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.”

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