US will reportedly require all travelers to get a COVID-19 test 1 day before travel

Dec 1, 2021

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The U.S. is reportedly preparing to significantly narrow the testing window for travelers flying back to the United States, regardless of vaccination status, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The new rule will require all travelers, vaccinated or not, to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no later than one day before departure. The current policy, which has been in place since January, has been three days before departure. The policy goes into effect for flights departing at or after Dec. 6, 2021.

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The move comes days after the omicron variant was deemed a “variant of concern” — the most severe category — by the World Health Organization. The variant may be more contagious than others and contains several spike protein mutations that may make it less responsive to COVID-19 vaccines. There are also signs it may be more virulent than other variants.

The White House had previously stated it didn’t anticipate implementing further travel restrictions because of the new COVID-19 variant.

However, the Post is reporting that the Biden Administration is considering requiring U.S.-bound travelers to get another test within three to five days after arriving in the U.S., and is also considering requiring travelers — even those who test negative — to quarantine for seven days following international travel. It’s unclear how that policy would be enforced. Several jurisdictions, including New York City, have had various quarantine policies for domestic and international travel at points during the pandemic.

Last week, the Biden administration suspended entry to the United States by travelers from eight South African nations, including South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The temporary ban applies to those who have been in the affected countries within 14 days of attempted entry to the U.S. and does not include American citizens or permanent residents. Non-U.S. citizens coming from the impacted countries are restricted from entering the U.S. with limited exceptions.

But the new testing requirement is the first policy to affect U.S. citizens and applies to all travelers whether they’re vaccinated or not. As we’ve previously reported, unvaccinated U.S. travelers now must show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one day before departure. This policy went into effect in early November.

It’s unclear whether U.S. airlines have been informed of the new policy, as they are required to verify travelers’ negative COVID-19 test results. But what is clear is that travelers, vaccinated or not, will have to arrange for COVID-19 testing with little flexibility, which can already be difficult for travelers in more remote destinations or places with testing shortages.  Self-testing still appears to be an option, with several popular companies such as Abbott selling testing kits.

Featured photo by Liu Guanguan/China News Service via Getty Images

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