The U.S. government announced on Thursday that it will end some of its enhanced screening protocols for international travelers entering the country — specifically, that all flights from specific nations be directed to one of 15 airports — after first instituting the screening protocol in January to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
This “new approach,” which begins Monday, will no longer require international flights from China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, the Schengen region of Europe, the U.K., Ireland or Brazil to be routed to the aforementioned 15 airports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed.
Passengers on such flights will also no longer be required to submit to enhanced entry health screenings, as this approach “has limited effectiveness because people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms,” per the CDC’s announcement.
Instead, the CDC said efforts will be “refocused” on other mitigation efforts, including: “pre-departure, in-flight, and post-arrival health education”; enhanced illness response; collecting contact information from arriving passengers electronically; enhanced training for partners at airports; and assisting passengers — both departing and arriving — with information on travel-related risks and post-travel precautions.
However, there will still be “potential testing to reduce the risk of travel-related transmission of the virus,” and to track its movement.
“This strategy is consistent with the current phase of the pandemic and more effectively protects the health of the American public,” the CDC explained.
The CDC and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had first announced the implementation of “enhanced health screenings” for airline passengers arriving from or traveling through the Wuhan province of China in January. Those flights were first routed to San Francisco International Airport (SFO), John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York (JFK) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), before the program expanded to include the 15 currently designated airports.
Reuters, meanwhile, reports that 15 arriving passengers had been identified as having COVID-19 since January, citing a document recently obtained by the outlet. The same document reportedly indicated that approximately 675,000 arriving passengers had undergone enhanced health screenings since the start of the program.
Fox News has reached out to the Transportation Security Administration, as well as the CDC, for confirmation.
Fox News’ Michael Hollan contributed to this report.