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White House to end Covid-19 test requirement for international air travelers

The airline industry had argued the requirement for a negative test before flying into the U.S. was outdated.

The Biden administration announced Friday that it's ending a requirement for airplane travelers to test negative for Covid-19 before entering the U.S.

White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz said that the U.S. would "end Covid-19 testing requirement for air travelers entering the country" in a tweet linking to a CNN story that broke the news.

Munoz said the president's work vaccines and treatments was "critical" to the development, and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will monitor "based on the science and in context of circulating variants."

A senior Biden administration official said the CDC made its determination “based on the science and data that this requirement is no longer necessary at this time.”

“The CDC will do a reassessment of this decision in 90 days," the official said, adding that if there is "a need to reinstate a pre-departure testing requirement, including due to a new, concerning variant, CDC will not hesitate to act.”

A senior airline source and the administration official told NBC News the pre-departure testing rules will be lifted at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday.

The move comes less than two weeks after leaders of the industry groups Airlines for America and the U.S. Travel Association met with officials at the White House to urge them to pull the plug on the requirement they maintained was outdated.

“Despite the countless studies affirming that the hospital-grade air onboard aircraft is some of the cleanest available and the significant increase in vaccination rates, the administration continues to hold air travel to a standard different than land border crossings,” Airlines for America president Nicholas E. Calio said in a statement after the meeting.

“Science has shown time and time again that the pre-departure testing requirement is not effective and is not stopping or even slowing the spread of Covid. Quite frankly, the only impact the pre-departure testing requirement is having is a chilling effect on an already fragile economy here in the U.S.,” Calio said.

The CDC requires international air travelers who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to be fully vaccinated before flying to the country.

The administration official said the CDC still recommends Covid testing before any air travel.