Airlines from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Guinea flying to the United States will from March 4, 2021, be required to collect and transmit contact information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for appropriate public health follow-up and intervention for all passengers 21 days before their arrival.
This order follows the February 2020 interim final rule that authorized CDC to require airlines and other aircraft operators to collect certain data from passengers before they board a flight to the United States, and to provide the information to CDC within 24 hours of a CDC order.
There are currently outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease (Ebola) in DRC and Guinea.
According to a statement by the CDC, the move is to identify and locate people in the U.S. who may have been exposed to a communicable disease, such as Ebola, abroad and is critical to help prevent the spread of disease within U.S. communities.
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“Having access to travellers’ contact information will allow U.S. federal, state, and local health departments and agencies to provide health information, monitor travellers for signs and symptoms of Ebola, and ensure travellers who develop symptoms are quickly isolated and receive appropriate medical evaluation and care,” the statement further reads.
CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky in addition said that timely public health follow-up requires health officials to have immediate access to accurate and complete contact information for travellers as they arrive in the United States.
“Inaccurate or incomplete contact information reduces the ability of public health authorities to swiftly protect the health of travellers and the public. Any delay in contacting exposed individuals can increase the likelihood of disease spread,” she said.
The CDC says air travel has the potential to transport people, some of whom may have been exposed to a communicable disease, anywhere across the globe in less than 24 hours.
In certain situations, public health officials may need to follow up with travellers who have arrived from a country where an outbreak is occurring, such as the Ebola outbreaks in DRC and Guinea.
CDC has identified the minimum amount of information needed to locate travellers reliably after they arrive in the United States: full name, address while in the U.S., primary contact phone number, secondary or emergency contact phone number, and email address.
Airlines and other aircraft operators will collect this information and submit it electronically, to enable CDC to receive this data in a timely manner.
The U.S. government will also begin to redirect air passengers from DRC and Guinea to six U.S. airports where over 96% of air passengers from these countries already arrive.
The six airports include New York (JFK), Chicago (ORD), Atlanta (ATL), Washington D.C. (IAD), Newark (EWR), and Los Angeles (LAX). Passengers can expect their contact information to be verified by U.S. government officials on arrival to ensure it is accurate and complete. CDC will share contact information securely with state and local health departments for passengers’ final destinations in the United States.