The U.S. administration is looking into requiring everyone entering the country to undergo a COVID-19 test the day before their flight. According to a report by CNN, they will also require every traveler—including US citizens and permanent residents— to be tested again upon returning home regardless of the level of vaccination.
Officials were deliberating on the possible changes on late Tuesday night. No decision has been taken on the finalization; however, officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it is currently working on revising tests for travelers due to 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,” a CDC spokesman said in a statement. “This strengthens already robust protocols in place for international travel, including requirements for foreign travelers to be fully vaccinated.”
Presently, travelers who are vaccinated must take a test three days before departure. The proposed change would reduce that timeframe to just one day.
The need for a mandatory quarantine of US citizens returning to the US is not in the works, According to an official at the White House.
“The administration continues to evaluate the appropriate measures to protect the American people from COVID-19, especially as we learn more about the Omicron variant, including considering more stringent testing requirements for international travel. Policy discussions are ongoing across the government, and no final decisions have been made.”
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that the CDC has been “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.”
Walensky added that the CDC is increasing surveillance at four international airports to monitor the Omicron variant in travelers. The CDC is considering providing the names of the passengers on flights that enter the US from southern Africa to local and state public health departments, an official from the health department confirms. This conforms with the CDC order that airlines are required to obtain contact information of passengers prior to their arrival. This way, they can find and identify passengers who might have been exposed to the disease and require subsequent follow-up. Airlines were instructed to start following this directive just a few months ago. It’s not clear what number of flights will be affected by the new rules.
The Omicron variant hasn’t been detected in the United States. However, government and public health authorities have repeatedly stressed that current restrictions on travel to South African countries aren’t likely to stop the spread of the Omicron variant to the US. Instead, the limits will provide the nation some time to prepare.