New U.S. COVID-19 international travel testing rules take effect Monday

Passengers wait in line inside the terminal at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

WASHINGTON, Dec 2 (Reuters) – New rules requiring international air travelers arriving in the United States to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel will take effect Monday at 12:01 a.m. ET (0501 GMT), U.S. officials confirmed Thursday.

Under current rules, vaccinated international air travelers can present a negative test result obtained within three days of their day of departure. Unvaccinated travelers currently must get a negative COVID-19 test within one day of departure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday that beginning Monday “all air travelers, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, will be required to show a negative pre-departure COVID-19 viral test taken the day before they board their flight to the United States.”

The tighter testing timeline “provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the Omicron variant,” the White House said in a factsheet released Thursday.

The CDC is expected to give airlines a three-day grace period to allow for some travelers to return to the United States with tests taken outside of the one-day window.

The administration is considering whether to grant temporary exemptions for about two dozen countries where access to same-day testing is limited, but the details are still being finalized. Those exemptions could last for only about a week.

On Monday, the White House said it would bar nearly all foreign nationals from entering the United States from eight southern African countries over fears of the spread of the Omicron variant, but has not extended those travel restrictions to other countries where the new variant has been discovered.

The U.S. top infectious disease official Anthony Fauci said Wednesday he viewed the restrictions on the eight countries as a “temporary measure.”

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday she would not “expect the lifting of restrictions before we know more about the variant. We will continue to evaluate if additional restrictions need to be put in place.”

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