Medical Technology

Airlines asked to keep information on travelers from Southern Africa

Federal health officials have instructed airlines to collect contact-tracing information from passengers heading to the U.S. after they have been in southern Africa for two weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that it issued the most recent requirement “to prevent the importation and spread of a communicable illness of public health significance.”

The directive follows President Joe Biden’s order that bars most foreign nationals from entering the U.S. if they have been in southern Africa, where the omicron version of COVID-19 was first identified. The ban is not in effect in the event that the American permanent resident or citizen has been in these countries. However they must present proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

According to the CDC order which was obtained by The Associated Press, airlines will be required to keep information on those passengers for a period of 30 days and then provide it to the CDC within 24 hours of receiving a request by the health agency.

The information includes a passenger’s full name and date of birth and the location they’ll be staying in the U.S., an email address that they check frequently as well as their primary and secondary phone numbers. Airlines will also have to provide the passenger’s flight number, the cities of departure and arrival as well as their seat number.

The directive, which started with flights on Monday, applies to those who have recently been in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe.

United Airlines has maintained its schedule of five flights per week between Newark, New Jersey and Johannesburg, South Africa. They will resume flights to Cape Town on Wednesday. A spokesperson for United said that the company was complying with all government requirements for international travel, including contact-tracing information.

Delta Air Lines flies three times per week between its home in Atlanta and Johannesburg and as with United it says it does not plan to alter its schedule. A spokesperson for Delta said Delta will abide by all CDC guidelines.

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