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USA: New pre-departure testing protocols and mask mandate

USA: New pre-departure testing protocols and mask mandate

Overnight, USA President Biden announced some changes in the protocols for international travel into the USA. They are scheduled to come into force next week, and there are still some details to come.

This news seems to have sparked a new round of anti-vax/anti-testing/anti-mask-wearing hysteria amongst those who find empathy a challenge.

You can read the text of the announcement that affects international travellers below, but essentially, besides being fully vaccinated, there are some changed conditions to be announced as a result of the new Omicron variant. In bound international travellers arriving into the USA will need to have a text one day prior to departure regardless of nationality or vaccination status. This is tighter than the current 3 days (72 hours) current restriction.

Oh, and you will need to wear masks on any form of mass transport, or in places of mass transport like airports. This would be totally uncontroversial in Australia, but is seen as some sort of alien led conspiracy in the USA – I slightly exaggerate, but only slightly.

  • Stronger Public Health Protocols for Safe International Travel: Last month, the Administration implemented stronger international travel protocols, including requirements for foreign travelers to be fully vaccinated. The very day the WHO identified the new Omicron variant, the Biden Administration took immediate steps to restrict travel from the countries in the region where it was confirmed to be spreading quickly. The President will announce additional steps to strengthen the safety of international travel as we face this new threat – just as we have faced those that have come before it. 
  • Strengthening global pre-departure testing protocols: Early next week, the United States will tighten pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travelers to test within one day of departure globally, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the Omicron variant.
  • Extending the requirement to wear a mask on airplanes, rail travel, and public transportation: The Administration will continue to require masking during international or other public travel – as well as in transportation hubs such as airports or indoor bus terminals – through March 18 as we continue to battle COVID-19 this winter. The Transportation Security Administration will extend its implementing orders to maintain these requirements through March 18. Fines will continue to be doubled from their initial levels for noncompliance with the masking requirements – with a minimum fine of $500 and fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.
Mural at the United Nations, New York.

2PAXfly Takeout

I’m not going to get into the whole naming a country as the origin is just racism debate, however, these tightened guidelines for a variant, that we don’t know much about other than it seems to be more infectious and more readily infects people who have already had COVID-19, seem sensible. They are targeted at slowing the spread until we know more, and if science prevails – which is no certain bet in the USA – should be updated as we know more.

Expect more details next week.

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