It’s time to drop COVID-19 testing for international travel

Feb 10, 2022

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Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, published his perspective on the state of COVID-19 testing for international travel in his Feb. 5, 2022 newsletter. Subscribe to receive his weekly newsletter every Saturday.


As countries around the world start to realize that COVID-19 isn’t going away, some of the strictest countries have begun to ease up on their COVID-19 restrictions. For example, the United Kingdom will end COVID-19 testing for vaccinated travelers and reduce testing requirements for those that are unvaccinated beginning Feb. 11.

Find out what travel could look like as COVID-19 becomes endemic here. 

Last week, the travel industry encouraged the White House to do the same and I completely agree with them.

Not all tests are created equal

Today there’s a huge risk to traveling abroad. If you test positive while abroad, you could be forced either to pay for a costly quarantine or, in some cases, be required to go to a government quarantine facility for an unspecified amount of time.

We all know that testing isn’t perfect. In fact, this week I took an at-home BinaxNow test that came back positive for COVID-19 even though I had no symptoms, am vaccinated and boosted. But when I went to get a PCR test later that day, I was negative. If that BinaxNow test was done while I was abroad, I would have been unable to come home even though I don’t actually have COVID-19 per the more strenuous and reliable PCR test.

Read what happened when TPG tested four popular COVID-19 tests here. 

Air travel and international travel

Traveling on a plane where masks are still required — and I agree they should be required, at least for a little while longer — and where transmission has been proven to be very low thanks to HEPA filters is one of the safest places to be. Requiring people to test before you go on a plane where you’ll be wearing a mask the whole time doesn’t really accomplish a whole lot besides adding undue stress to travelers, including the cost to find testing.

International travel isn’t going to rebound until we make it as easy to travel out of the country as it is to travel domestically. Today you could go from one COVID-19 hot spot in the U.S. to another without needing to take a test first, so why should you be required to test when you’re in other countries? Especially when a lot of other countries have lower rates of COVID-19 than we do here in the U.S. To me, it’s security theater.

I think everyone needs to protect themselves, wear their masks on planes and get vaccinated. But I agree that it’s time that the U.S. government stops punishing international travelers with the requirement to test before returning to the U.S., especially when the tests aren’t 100% reliable.

Featured photo by Chalabala/Getty Images.

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