U.S. transportation officials and airlines are at odds with public-health officials over whether people who test negative for coronavirus before they travel should still have to quarantine when they arrive in the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter.
The rift has emerged as U.S. officials have also been looking to strike deals with their foreign counterparts to establish safe-travel corridors between major American and international cities.
Such routes would likely rely in part on rapid Covid-19 tests to help travelers escape lengthy quarantines. Currently, travel between the U.S. and most of Europe is severely limited: U.S. citizens who have been in Europe are advised to self-isolate for 14 days when they return, while non-U.S. residents generally aren’t allowed to enter. Americans are for the most part barred from travel to most European countries and must quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in the U.K.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has insisted that such corridors should still require that arriving passengers quarantine for five days to a week and take another test, according to these people. Industry trade groups, along with senior U.S. transportation officials, have balked at that, they said. Airlines and industry groups are instead pushing for a system of pre-departure testing and contact tracing.
Reopening international markets and persuading people to fly again are pressing issues both for airlines, which are losing millions of dollars a day, and governments concerned about languishing economies. The patchwork of quarantine requirements both around the world and across U.S. states are a major obstacle to travel, and airlines say that testing—coupled with safety measures like new cleaning procedures and requirements that passengers wear masks on planes—can mitigate risks while allowing borders to reopen.