US government issues new warnings about the risks of international travel

Jan 26, 2021

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There was a strong new advisory from the  Biden Administration today Jan. 26, 2021. In addition to the new requirement that all international airline passengers have a negative COVID-19 test, the federal government has new, stern warnings about overseas travel.

In a fact sheet from the U.S. Department of State, the government is now saying, “U.S. citizens should reconsider non-essential travel abroad.”

The new memo also suggests that Americans postpone all non-essential travel.

CBS News was the first to report on the new language.

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The memo outlines three reasons that Americans shouldn’t be traveling internationally right now:

  • You could have difficulty accessing a test while you’re abroad.
  • You could test positive and get stuck abroad for an extended period of time.
  • You could have difficulty accessing or financing medical care.

The government is basically suggesting that if you travel, you may be on your own when it comes to getting home and dealing with the costs and time involved in a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

On testing, the memo reads:

“The U.S. Department of State and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remind all travelers that beginning tomorrow, January 26, all air passengers two years of age or older arriving to the United States must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding. This order applies to both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens.”

The new testing requirement went into effect today, but so far there’s not a ton of information out there on how it’s being implemented and/or enforced.

Related: What it’s like now that the U.S. requires a COVID-19 test?

As TPG has reported there are many coronavirus tests available. Your best bet right now remains the PCR test usually done via nasal swab. There are now sites being set up that can turn PCR tests in as little as three hours. I was able to get a PCR test done at LAX for a recent trip to test out Kauai’s new resort bubbles.

But the U.S. government will also be accepting rapid antigen tests and antibody tests. Do note that home-tests are not being accepted for this new requirement. Airlines are the ones enforcing the new rules. Passengers are supposed to provide written documentation of test results in order to board their flights. The airlines are accepting paper or electronic copies of negative test results.

Related: How rapid COVID-19 testing can help travelers

If you need to find a quick coronavirus test, TPG reporter Victoria Walker wrote about tips on that here. Note that finding testing sites overseas will be harder in some countries than in others. Be sure to check with your hotel and see if they provide testing or if they might be able to get a doctor or practitioner to come to your hotel.

Related: Onsite COVID-19 tests may be the most valuable hotel perk of 2021 — these resorts have them

What happens if you test positive while in another country? TPG reporter Chris Dong wrote about that here.

From the new harsher tone being adopted by the Biden Administration, however, it sounds like you may not be able to count on Uncle Sam to come to the rescue. As Dong points out, you should have a plan and be prepared to spend the money (or points) necessary for a potentially long quarantine.

Featured image by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images. 

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