CDC allows airlines to release details about passengers from southern Africa

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Federal health officials have instructed airlines to provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the names and contact information of all passengers who have boarded flights to the United States since Nov. 29 and who had been in southern Africa within the past two weeks.

The directive, issued on Wednesday, applies to passengers who spent time in Botswana, the kingdoms of Eswatini and Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa in the two weeks before flying to the United States. The airlines were instructed to provide their names, addresses in the United States, telephone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth and flight information, including seat numbers.

“CDC is issuing this guidance to prevent the importation and spread of a communicable disease of public health concern,” said a statement from the agency, making clear reference to the new Omicron variant of the virus that causes Covid.

Last week, the White House announced a travel ban from eight countries in southern Africa. And late Tuesday night, the CDC said it plans to tighten virus testing and screening of people flying to the United States by requiring all international passengers to give a negative result on a test conducted within 24 hours of departure.

The new directive was issued under an Oct. 25 order requiring airlines and aircraft operators to collect specific information from all passengers prior to boarding, keep the information for 30 days, and send it to CDC within 24 hours if required. asked.

The CDC may share the information with state and local health departments at passengers’ destinations, allowing local health authorities to monitor travelers for Covid, identify symptomatic individuals, notify their contacts, and send those infected to isolate and isolate. quarantine their contacts to avoid further spreading the disease. They can also use the information to ensure that infected individuals receive appropriate care.

The order applies to flights that have departed for the United States since Monday morning. Two flights departed from Johannesburg for the United States that day: a 300-seat Delta Air Lines flight bound for Atlanta, and a 250-seat United Airlines flight bound for Newark, NJ.

Both flights landed in the United States on Tuesday morning, according to schedules from Cirium, an airline data provider. Two more United flights will depart from South Africa to Newark on Wednesday, one from Cape Town and one from Johannesburg.

Delta and United are currently the only two airlines offering direct or single stopover flights between the countries covered by the CDC order and the United States, according to Cirium’s timetable data. Delta operates three weekly flights between Johannesburg and Atlanta. United operates five flights a week between Johannesburg and Newark. It also plans to restart seasonal flights between Cape Town and Newark on Wednesday.

Both airlines have said they have no plans to change their flight schedules in response to the government’s ban on travelers from the region, which took effect Monday and does not apply to US citizens or lawful permanent residents. The airlines also said they intend to comply with the CDC order.

Sixty-one people who arrived in the Netherlands on Friday aboard two flights departing from South Africa tested positive for the virus that causes Covid, including more than a dozen carrying the new Omicron variant. The number of overall positive cases represented more than 10 percent of the 600 passengers tested.

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