As of next Monday, the United States will require all travelers to its territory to present a negative coronavirus test within 24 hours prior to their flight, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure.
This is one of the measures announced Thursday by the Biden administration as part of its winter plan against COVID-19, which has eight other provisions. Until now, the United States required pre-departure coronavirus testing of vaccinated and unvaccinated air travelers but was stricter with those who have not received inoculations. In fact, unvaccinated travelers were required to test negative within 24 hours prior to departure, while vaccinated travelers were required to test negative within 72 hours.
“This tighter timeframe for all travelers provides an additional degree of public health protection as scientists continue to evaluate the Omicron variant,” a senior official, who preferred to remain anonymous, said in a call with reporters.
This source ruled out that travelers will have to remain in quarantine for some time after arrival or undergo another coronavirus test within two to three days of setting foot on U.S. soil, as had been advanced by several U.S. media outlets.
Beyond protocols for travelers, Biden’s winter coronavirus plan includes measures to boost booster vaccination among all adults; expand the number of inoculations among children; increase access to free home testing; and increase workplace protections.
In addition, Biden’s program, announced Thursday by the White House, will strengthen rapid response teams to help combat potential spikes in cases and ensure the supply of COVID-19 treatment pills once they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), among other things.
While the senior official acknowledged on the call that the new Omicron variant is “cause for concern,” he asserted that it is “not cause for panic.”
“We have the tools we need to deal with this variant and continue to make progress in our fight against the virus. We are using them to keep the population safe, keep our schools open and protect our economy,” he said.
The United States confirmed Wednesday the first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, which has been detected in California and which corresponds to an individual who returned to the country from South Africa on November 22.