U.S. moving to toughen testing requirement for travelers

The Biden administration is moving to toughen testing requirements for international travelers to the United States, including both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, amid the spread of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Tuesday statement that it was working toward requiring that all air travelers to the U.S. be tested for COVID-19 within a day before boarding their flight. Currently those who are fully vaccinated may present a test taken within three days of boarding.

“CDC is working to modify the current Global Testing Order for travel as we learn more about the Omicron variant; a revised order would shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure to the United States,” the agency said.

The precise testing protocols were still being finalized ahead of a speech by President Joe Biden planned for Thursday on the nation’s plans to control the COVID-19 pandemic during the winter season, according to a senior administration official who said some details could still change.

“CDC is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including pre-departure testing closer to the time of flight and considerations around additional post-arrival testing and self-quarantines,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said earlier Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s plans before the announcement, said options under consideration also include post-arrival testing requirements or or even self-quarantines.

CDC currently recommends post-arrival testing 3-5 days after landing in the U.S. from overseas and self-quarantine for unvaccinated travelers, though compliance is voluntary and is believed to be low.

The move comes just weeks after the U.S. largely reopened its borders to fully vaccinated foreign travelers on Nov. 8 and instituted a two-tiered testing system that allowed fully vaccinated travelers more time to seek a pre-arrival test, while requiring a test within a day of boarding for the unvaccinated.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, which has been identified in more than 20 countries but not yet in the U.S., including whether it is more contagious, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said more would be known about the omicron strain in two to four weeks as scientists grow and test lab samples of the virus.

As he sought to quell public concern about the new variant, Biden said that in his Thursday remarks, “I’ll be putting forward a detailed strategy outlining how we’re going to fight COVID this winter — not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”

Asked by reporters if he would consult with allies about any changes in travel rules, given that former President Donald Trump had caught world leaders by surprise, Biden said, “Unlike Trump I don’t shock our allies.”

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6 thoughts on “U.S. moving to toughen testing requirement for travelers

  1. They need to work out an enforcement plan for the current rules before ramping the requirements up. I returned from Ecuador last week and not a soul from the airline, the Ecuadorean government, TSA or Customs looked at any of my COVID related paperwork. The announcement being made repeatedly in the Fort Lauderdale customs line was along the lines of “Only hand us your passport, We do not want to see any other paperwork.”

    Rules don’t provide protection, enforcement of rules provides protection.

  2. “We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus,” Biden tweeted the day after Trump imposed travel restrictions from China into the U.S. “We need to lead the way with science – not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. He is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency.”

  3. David G. Interesting because we can have 70,000-80,000 people right next to each other screaming and yelling in all college football and NFL games each weekend, concerts with people on top of each other(my 19 year old son just went to one in downtown Indy last night and it was packed to the point not able to move around well), but “on the plane there is a greater risk of infecting hundreds of people”. From what I have read, the airplane is about the safest because of the way the airflow is filtered and moved around the cabin.

    It’s all for theater

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