Omicron Update: Covid variant prompts new US travel rules. Here’s what you need to know

Just when we thought US travel rules were starting to stabilize, the omicron came in.

The dominoes fell rapidly after South African health authorities informed the world of their discovery of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in late November.

The Biden administration has issued a controversial travel ban for visitors from eight countries in southern Africa. The tourists were suddenly trapped. And now US officials are tightening travel regulations.

Things are changing by the day and even by the hour, but here are some of the questions people have about US travel rules – and the answers we have as of December 5:

Have the screening rules for entering the United States changed?

Yes, following President Joe Biden’s announcement on December 2 of new measures to contain the pandemic.

All incoming international travelers will be required to check in within one day of departure for the United States beginning Monday.

All flights departing after 12:01 a.m. ET on December 6 will be subject to the new CDC testing order, posted Thursday night.

This new testing timeframe will apply to everyone, “regardless of nationality or immunization status,” the plan outlined on the White House website said.

SEE MORE: Health officials revive contact tracing as omicron variant cases detected in multiple US states

Documentation of having recovered from Covid-19 in the last 90 days is also accepted.

Through Sunday, December 5, vaccinated travelers must be screened within three days of departure. There is a requirement for foreign visitors to the United States to be fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated Americans and lawful permanent residents are allowed to enter this country with a test taken within one day of departure for the United States. The new rule will create a one-day testing timeframe for everyone.

Biden also announced that the federal mask regulation that requires travelers to wear masks in airports, airplanes, and on other public transport such as trains and buses has been extended to March 18. .

‘One day’ means 24 hours?

Are not. According to the CDC, the “one-day” timeframe is used to “provide more flexibility for air passengers and aircraft operators.”

Acceptance of the test is independent of the time of flight or the time of day on which the test sample is taken.

SEE MORE: Study shows omicron variant can overcome immune protection from previous COVID infection

The CDC says on its website: “For example, if your flight is at 1 p.m. Friday, you can board with a negative test taken any time the previous Thursday. “.

Do testing requirements apply to children?

Yes, it applies to all passengers 2 years of age and older flying into the United States.

Does it apply to trips to land borders and seaports?

No, the request is only for people traveling by plane.

Is there a post-arrival inspection or quarantine requirement?

Not available. “We did not announce any steps on testing and quarantine upon arrival,” a senior administration official said at a news conference on Wednesday night.

“I would say – look, if additional measures are recommended, if additional measures can be taken well and effectively, we will not hesitate to take them, but we will not apply them today,” the official said. a White House transcript of that briefing.

Which countries are covered by the new US travel ban?

The travel ban was announced on November 26 for non-US citizens from eight countries in southern Africa. These are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

On November 27, the CDC placed all of them at a “very high risk” level 4 for Covid-19. (Botswana is already at Level 4 because of its deposits – more than 500 per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days.)

Citizens of those countries and citizens of other countries who have been there in the past 14 days are not currently allowed to enter the United States.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that the travel ban is being re-evaluated on a daily basis and that the US government is aware of the difficulties that have been caused to patients. with these countries.

Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said the ban came as the US was “in the dark” and had just learned of an increase in cases in South Africa because of the omicron variant; The ban is intended to provide time to assess the situation.

Can US citizens already in those countries return?
Yes, they can.

According to the White House statement, the CDC says that “citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States, certain family members, and other individuals who meet specific exceptions who have been in one of the the countries listed above in the last 14 days will be allowed to enter the United States.”

As of December 2, they are still required to follow the rules in place for re-entry: Negative result from Covid-19 test within three days of travel if fully immunized and within one day after travel if unvaccinated.

Can US citizens still travel to banned countries?
Technically, yes.

For example, at least two US aircraft carriers are still flying back and forth between South Africa. Delta Air Lines is still providing Atlanta-Johannesburg service and United Airlines is still providing Newark-Johannesburg service.

United Airlines is also resuming non-stop service between Newark and Cape Town, according to a report from Tourism South Africa. The statement also said, “we want to emphasize that our country remains open to all visitors who wish to visit.”

Whether to go or not is another matter. CDC advises against doing so.

You may also encounter new travel barriers. For example, Zimbabwe imposed a lockdown and mandatory quarantine on Tuesday, November 30 for tourists, state news agency NewZiana reported.

Visiting South African countries while a worldwide ban is in place may result in you being banned from other countries. For example, the UK does not allow entry to anyone who has been on the “red list” of countries – which includes Angola and Zambia as well as the eight countries discussed above – except return nationals. of this country.

Argentina, Canada, Italy and other countries have also introduced bans, each with its own specific parameters.

What is the US doing to detect the virus?
The CDC says it will expand omicron monitoring at four major US international airports.

The CDC also confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that officials have directed airlines carrying passengers who have been to certain South African countries to share those passengers’ contact information with the agency.

Airlines have been collecting contact information from passengers in accordance with the CDC’s contact tracing order effective November 8.

Cable news network CNN-Wire & 2021, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. Copyright Registered. Omicron Update: Covid variant prompts new US travel rules. Here’s what you need to know

Dais Johnston

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