Military in Europe is offering coronavirus testing for air travel to US
Stars and Stripes is making stories on the coronavirus pandemic available free of charge. See other free reports here. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. Please support our journalism with a subscription.
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Americans affiliated with the U.S. military in Europe may be able to get coronavirus tests on base before flying to the United States, officials said this week.
Some bases are increasing testing capability to support a new requirement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all air travelers have proof of a negative test before entering the country.
The rule, which went into effect Tuesday, applies to all international travelers age two and older. Airline crews, federal law enforcement personnel and U.S. military personnel while on duty are exempt from the requirement.
Those entering the U.S. must present evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of travel, or proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the previous three months.
The “testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public,” the CDC said in a statement.
U.S. bases in Europe announced this week that they’ll provide testing for travelers. But in some places, it’s just for those traveling with official orders.
At Ramstein Air Base, the 86th Medical Group will provide rapid testing on a walk-in basis from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Enlisted Club, Monday to Friday. The pre-travel testing is intended for Air Force personnel assigned locally who are traveling on orders or emergency leave, base spokeswoman Sandy Archer said Tuesday.
Service members, Defense Department civilians and family members are eligible for the free testing, she said. The results take less than an hour.
There is no test required for those traveling to the U.S. on Patriot Express flights, Archer said.
Army medical facilities in Europe will also provide tests for those with official travel orders, including temporary duty, permanent change of station moves and emergency leave, said Gino Mattorano, a spokesman for Regional Health Command Europe.
The command is weighing whether it can provide testing for unofficial travel to the U.S. while also executing its critical missions, Mattorano said.
“In the meantime, we encourage beneficiaries on unofficial travel to take advantage of testing services in the local community to obtain the required testing and documentation,” he said.
At Spangdahlem Air Base, the 52nd Medical Group will provide tests for official or personal leave, a base spokeswoman said. Personnel there should call to schedule the test about a week before travel.
CDC guidance says the testing must be performed using a viral test – either NAAT or antigen – and the negative results must be presented to the airline prior to boarding.
A testing center at Frankfurt Airport offers an antigen test Monday to Sunday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for 59 euros, or about $66. Registration can be completed in advance at https://www.frankfurt-airport.com. Results are sent digitally, usually within 150 minutes, the website said Tuesday.
When international travelers arrive in the U.S., they are required to get tested again three to five days after travel and stay home for seven days, pending a negative test result; or self-quarantine for 14 days without a new test.
The CDC post-flight guidelines became mandatory following an executive order signed by President Joe Biden on Thursday.