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Democrats call on CDC and FAA to impose vaccine requirement on domestic air travel

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Democratic lawmakers on Monday called on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Aviation Administration to implement new requirements for air travelers to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results in order to fly domestically in the United States.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and House Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), wrote a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson urging them to act quickly, as Americans prepare to travel for the holidays and the Omicron variant poses a "major public health threat."

"We urge you to implement new requirements for airline passengers to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result to board a domestic flight," the Democrats wrote.

They said that the additional coronavirus restrictions would "improve public health and address concerns that passengers have about flying."

"International travelers arriving in the United States must already submit COVID-19-related documentation to airlines before boarding their flight, and airlines are demonstrating they have the capacity to implement these vaccine and testing requirements. For example, Delta Airlines and American Airlines have adopted their FlyReady and VeriFLY verification systems, and United Airlines has introduced similar requirements. CDC has also already published guidance on what types of COVID-10 tests and proof of COVID-19 vaccination are acceptable for this process," the lawmakers wrote.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration tightened restrictions on international travelers, requiring that anyone outside the U.S. seeking to fly here show a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test taken the day before they board a plane to the U.S. The restrictions were adopted as a pre-emptive measure taken to reduce transmission of the Omicron variant.

Other countries are enacting strict travel restrictions in response to fear of Omicron, which evidence suggests transmits between people rapidly.

Germany on Saturday announced that it will soon classify the United Kingdom as an "area of variant of concern" because of Omicron's spread. The designation is the highest risk category defined by German officials and would ban travel from the U.K. for all but German citizens, who must quarantine for two weeks if they return home. France issued a similar travel ban a week before, and more European countries are expected to follow suit.

Israel's health ministry on Sunday added several European countries to its COVID-19 "red list" and recommended banning Israeli residents from traveling to the United States. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has promised to continue imposing travel restrictions to avoid further lockdowns as the nation deals with its fifth wave of COVID-19.

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