Omicron: United States tightens international travel protocols

 Friday, December 3, 2021 



With the omicron variant of COVID-19 now identified in the United States, the federal government is revising entry requirements for international travellers among a host of new public health measures.

The White House announced this morning via a fact sheet posted on its website that the United States would strengthen testing protocols for incoming international travellers, regardless of citizenship status, vaccination status and regardless of country of origin.

Starting “early next week”, all international travellers will be required to present proof of a negative test taken within one day of travel.

The current requirement designates a three-day testing window, which leaves a longer time period for would-be travellers to contract the virus prior to travel but without developing symptoms. That rule was enforced in November when the US reopened to fully vaccinated nationals of 33 countries including the UK, Ireland and Europe’s Schengen area.

According to the US Travel Association, the federal officials were considering the possibility of a seven-day quarantine period and post-arrival testing requirement for international travellers – regardless of citizenship status or vaccination status – following the detection of the omicron variant in the US.

The group said they pushed back on such proposals, citing the devastating impact on the US travel industry specifically, but also on the broader US economy. The group estimated the US has lost $300 billion in export income since the start of the pandemic.

As well as new travel measures, the Biden administration is rolling out additional programmes and campaigns to increase vaccination rates across the US.

The omicron variant has now been identified in 29 countries globally, including South Africa where it was originally sequenced as a variant, but also in a host of European countries and a handful of Asia-Pacific nations like Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.

A number of those countries have also tightened travel restrictions, including the UK which has reintroduced PCR testing as a requirement of all passengers within two days of arrival in the country.

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