President Joe Biden is expected to announce new and tougher testing requirements for both vaccinated and unvaccinated international travelers.
In a statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was working to require all those traveling to the U.S. by air to take a COVID test within 24 hours before boarding their flights, The Associated Press reported. As of now, fully vaccinated travelers can present a test with 72 hours 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 exact protocols are still being completed before a speech Biden scheduled for Thursday regarding the country’s plans to curb COVID in the winter, a senior administration official told the AP. The official added that details could still change.
The official also said some options the Biden Administration is considering are testing after arrival and self-quarantines.
“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 Tuesday
The CDC recommends that travelers test within 3-5 days after arrival and self-quarantine for unvaccinated individuals. However, this is voluntary and compliance is thought to be low.
The U.S. reopened its borders to fully vaccinated foreign travelers on Nov. 8 and implemented a testing system that gave vaccinated travelers more time to get a test before departure, while unvaccinated travelers must test within 24 hours before departing to the U.S.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
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.”