The United States government has lifted restrictions governing the number of airports permitted to handle international traffic after realising that "enhanced airport screening" procedures were not particularly efficient in detecting COVID-19 infected passengers.

"Beginning September 14, 2020, the US Government will remove requirements for directing all flights carrying airline passengers arriving from, or recently had a presence in, certain countries to land at one of 15 designated airports and halt enhanced entry health screening for these passengers," the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a press release.

Since mid-March, passengers arriving in the US from restricted countries had to travel through one of 15 designated airports, namely Boston, Chicago O'Hare, Detroit Metropolitan, Dallas/Fort Worth, Honolulu, Fort Lauderdale Int'l, Houston Intc'l, Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson, New York JFK, Los Angeles Int'l, Miami Int'l, New York Newark, San Francisco, CA, Seattle Tacoma Int'l, and Washington Dulles. The decision affected passengers coming from China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, the Schengen region of Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Brazil or those who were in one of these countries shortly before their travel to the US.

The decision does not change the list of travellers allowed to enter the US, which remains limited to residents and select groups of non-residents.

"We now have a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms... The new, more effective strategy focuses on the continuum of travel and the individual passenger, including pre-departure and post-arrival education, efforts to develop a potential testing framework with international partners, and illness response," the CDC said.

The CDC underlined that the change in procedures would reduce crowding ports of entry and allow for better monitoring of passengers, including post-arrival recommendations for self-monitoring or stay-at-home recommendations.