US CDC Instructs Airlines To Hand Over Southern Africa Passenger Data

The CDC has ordered US airlines to submit passenger data at the latest 24 hours after arrival for people who have been in Southern Africa within the past 14 days. The measure is aimed at containing the spread of the new coronavirus variant known as Omicron, and details will be passed on for ‘public health follow-up’.

United, American, LAX
The CDC’s new mandate means US airlines will have 24 hours to turn in data from passengers who have been to Southern Africa over the past 14 days. Photo: Getty Images

May lead to quarantine

As first reported by Reuters, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has sent a letter to airlines requesting data for passengers from eight countries in Southern Africa. The communication, which was sent out late on Tuesday, says carriers must hand over the details of travelers who have been in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe over the course of the past two weeks.

“(The CDC) will provide the contact information of these passengers to jurisdictional state and local public health partners for public health follow-up. This follow-up may include recommendations for potential post-arrival viral testing and quarantine and isolation,” the agency said, according to Reuters.

According to a mandate from November 7th, airlines must collect data from all incoming international passengers. This includes names, dates of birth, full address while in the US, phone numbers, email addresses, and flight information, including seat numbers. Airlines will now have 24 hours to submit the data after the arrival of people from the countries listed above.

US CDC Instructs Airlines To Hand Over Southern Africa Passenger Data
Foreign nationals from Southern Africa are currently barred from entering the US. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

US buying time, it says

The reason for the new directive, issued on Wednesday, is, of course, the emergence of a new coronavirus variant now referred to as Omicron. First discovered in South Africa and Botswana, several countries have halted flights arriving from SA and neighboring countries as a result. However, the strain, B.1.1.529, has now been discovered in 30 countries, with instances discovered from before its identification in SA.

The first case of Omicron in the US was confirmed on Wednesday. On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, including CNN, that the administration did not expect that recently instated travel restrictions would stop the variant from entering the country.

However, it hopes to gain some time to prepare for its arrival and has blocked entry for foreign nationals from the Southern African region. Furthermore, the US has tightened its testing requirements for incoming travelers.

US CDC Instructs Airlines To Hand Over Southern Africa Passenger Data
United Airlines has not changed its schedule to South Africa because of the restrictions. The carrier even restarted its Cape Town service on December 1st. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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No changes for Delta and United

Meanwhile, both Delta Air Lines and United have said that they will not be revising their routes between the US and South Africa as a result of the new measures. Delta flies from Atlanta to Johannesburg three times per week. United operates a service between Newark and Johannesburg five times a week and restarted its route to Cape Town just yesterday, December 1st.