The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the United States is preparing to significantly shorten the testing window for travelers returning to the United States, regardless of vaccination status.
Every traveler, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no later than one day prior to departure under the new rule set in place. It has been three days before departure since January that this policy has been in place.
Days earlier, the World Health Organization declared the Omicron variant to be a “variant of concern,” the most severe classification. Several spike protein mutations may make the variant less responsive to COVID-19 vaccines, making it more contagious. Signs indicate that it is more dangerous than other variants.
The new COVID-19 variant was not expected to result in additional travel restrictions, as the White House had previously stated.
Biden’s administration is considering requiring U.S.-bound visitors to get another test within three or five days of arrival, and it is also considering requiring travelers—even those who test negative—to quarantine for seven days after international travel. Exactly how this policy would be implemented is unknown. There were various quarantine policies for domestic and international travel during the pandemic in several jurisdictions, including New York City.
Travelers from eight South African countries, including South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, were barred from entering the United States last week by the Biden administration. Visitors to the United States who have been in the affected countries within 14 days of their attempt to enter will be subject to a temporary ban on entry. There are a few exceptions for non-U.S. citizens from impacted countries who are allowed to enter the United States.
First and foremost, the new testing requirement for US citizens applies to all travelers, regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated. As previously reported, unvaccinated U.S. citizens must now show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one day prior to departure, as previously stated. In early November, this policy went into effect.
It’s not clear whether airlines in the United States have been informed of the new policy, as they are required to verify the negative COVID-19 test results of passengers. Even if travelers are protected, they will be forced to make last-minute arrangements for COVID-19 testing, which can be difficult in remote locations or in areas where testing is in short supply. There are still some companies like Abbott that report testing shortages despite self-testing being an option.
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