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Omicron variant: the US moving to toughen testing requirements for travelers

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The Biden government is moving to harden testing requirements for international travelers to the U.S., including both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, in the midst of the spread of the new Omicron variant of the Covid.

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. Right now the people who are completely vaccinated may present a test taken within three days of boarding.

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

The exact testing protocols were still being finalized ahead of a speech by President Joe Biden planned for Thursday on the country’s plan to control the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the winter season, as indicated by a senior administration official who said a few 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 contemplations around extra post-arrival testing and self-quarantines,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said earlier Tuesday.

Biden toughen testing requirements for travelers due to Omicron variant

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

CDC presently suggests post-arrival testing 3-5 days after landing in the U.S. from overseas and self-quarantine for unvaccinated travelers. However, compliance is voluntary and is believed to be below.

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

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Much remains unknown about the new variation, which has been identified in more than 20 nations. However not yet in the U.S., including whether it is more infectious. Whether it makes individuals more seriously ill, and whether it can ruin 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 looked to quell public worry about the new variation, Biden said that in his Thursday remarks. “I’ll set 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 previous President Trump had gotten world leaders by surprise, Biden said, “Unlike Trump, I don’t shock our allies.”

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