Once the Omicron variant was first identified by South African scientists, countries all over the world quickly adjusted their entry requirements and some, like Japan, Morocco and Israel just shut their borders completely. Others, including the U.S., restricted travel from eight countries in southern Africa.
It now appears that the United States will take things a step further and make much more significant changes for all international travelers, including fully vaccinated Americans. The Washington Post is reporting that tomorrow, the U.S. government is going to make a big announcement: “U.S. officials would require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure. Administration officials are also considering a requirement that all travelers get retested within three to five days of arrival.
“In addition, they are debating a controversial proposal to require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to self-quarantine for seven days, even if their test results are negative. Those who flout the requirements might be subject to fines and penalties, the first time such penalties would be linked to testing and quarantine measures for travelers in the United States.”
Let’s break this down. For starters, I don’t think that changing testing requirements from three days in advance to one is a big deal since most travelers are already getting their tests done within 24 hours of their flights and many are done in the airport just before boarding. In fact, I never understood why the U.S. allowed such leeway to begin with because theoretically, one could get tested, then go on a crazy two-day party binge, get exposed to the virus and infect everyone on the plane.
I’ve always thought airline passengers should be tested just before boarding and it may very well be in our future, including for domestic flights. The U.S. entry rules are a lot less restrictive than most countries, as travelers just need an antigen test and not an expensive, difficult-to-find and slow-to-report PCR test like the United Kingdom and Canada.
I also think it makes sense for travelers to get retested within three to five days of arrival but how many really will and how are they going to police it?
Now, the news that the Biden Administration is debating requiring all travelers to self-quarantine for seven days, even if their test results are negative, and be subject to fines, is what’s shocking and is like a dagger to the heart of the tourism industry. The few business travelers who are planning travel here will surely cancel and it will have a significant impact on the VFR (visiting friends and relatives) market. And again, how will they police it? Without supervised quarantines like those conducted in Australia and New Zealand or GPS tracking bracelets as in Hong Kong, it’s just not going to work.
The Trump administration tried to require quarantine for “any Americans who had visited China’s Hubei province, where the disease originated, within the past 14 days.” It was a joke, just like this new rule, if they indeed make it a rule.
One thing is for sure: More testing is in travelers’ futures, especially if it turns out that Omicron can evade our vaccines. It would be smart to stock up on COVID-19 tests so you can be prepared before they all run out, as you know they will.
One thing some savvy travelers do is take a COVID-19 test before they leave for a trip, even if the destination doesn’t require one in advance but rather on entry. For example, according to Afar, “the United Kingdom is asking all international arrivals to take a COVID-19 PCR test by the end of the second day after entering the country and to self-isolate until they receive a negative result.”
This way, they will know if they’re testing positive so they don’t make a long trip. It’s also smart for quick trips to places like Mexico where fully vaccinated travelers don’t need to test to get in but obviously need to for reentry back into the U.S. It’s better to know in advance.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.