Federal health officials are demanding airlines collect contact tracing information from passengers to the United States who have been to southern Africa in the previous two weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday it had issued the latest requirement “to prevent the importation and spread of a communicable disease of public health significance.”
The directive follows President Joe Biden’s order that bars most foreign nationals from entering the United States if they have been to southern Africa, where the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been reported for the first time. The ban does not apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States who have stayed in those countries, although they must show proof of a negative test for COVID-19.
Under the CDC order, obtained by The Associated Press, airlines will be required to retain information about these passengers for 30 days and report it to the CDC within 24 hours of a request from the health agency. .
The information includes the passenger’s full name and date of birth, their location in the United States, an email address they check regularly, and primary and secondary phone numbers. Airlines will also need to provide the passenger’s flight number, departure and arrival cities and their seat number.
The directive, which started with flights on Monday, covers travelers who have recently visited Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe.
So far, United Airlines maintains its schedule of five flights per week between Newark, New Jersey, and Johannesburg, South Africa, and plans to resume flights to Cape Town on Wednesday. A spokeswoman said United was following all government requirements for international travel, including contact tracing information.
Delta Air Lines flies three times a week between its Atlanta home and Johannesburg and, like United, says it has no plans to change its schedule. A spokesperson said Delta would comply with all CDC guidelines.
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