The White House announced this morning via a fact sheet posted on its website that the United States will strengthen the test protocols for incoming international travelers, regardless of citizenship status, vaccination status and regardless of country of origin. From the “beginning of next week”, according to the announcement, all international travelers will be required to present proof of a negative test taken within one day of the trip. The current requirement designates a three-day test window, which leaves a longer period for potential travelers to contract the virus before travel, but without developing symptoms.
The Biden administration has also extended until March 18 the federal mask mandate for air, rail and public transportation. The Transport Safety Administration will continue its execution orders until the same date. The minimum penalty for non-compliance is $ 500 and increases to $ 3,000 for repeat offenders.
According to the US Travel Association, federal officials considered the possibility of a seven-day quarantine period and requirements for post-arrival testing for international travelers, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status. The group said it was pushing back on such proposals, citing the devastating impact on the U.S. travel industry specifically, but also on the broader U.S. economy. The group estimates that the United States has lost $ 300 billion in export earnings since the start of the pandemic.
The Omicron variant, now detected in California, was discovered in a fully vaccinated individual who returned from South Africa on 22 November and tested positive for Covid-19 on 29 November. The variant has now been identified in 29 countries globally, including South Africa, where it was originally sequenced as a variant, but also in the UK and several European countries as well as a handful of Asia-Pacific countries such as Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.
In addition to new travel measures, the Biden Administration will roll out additional programs and campaigns to increase vaccination rates across the United States, including boosters, and provide “any resource” to the Federal Drug Administration to expedite the review of vaccines for children under five. , according to the release. It will also make testing more accessible through local pharmacies and provide more free test kits and resources, including insurance rebates for over-the-counter test kits.
Today, President Biden is expected to encourage companies to continue their vaccination and testing efforts. The White House claims that “60 percent of companies report that they go ahead with implementing a program to ensure that their workers are either vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis” roughly using the roadmap outlined by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The publication did not name OSHA by name, as 25 states have sued the federal government for OSHA violation of the vaccination-or-test protocol it rolled out in early November. The mandate is currently suspended as the lawsuits are filed in court, although many companies have nevertheless chosen to follow the minutes.