The Biden administration is tightening travel rules to and within the US and will require all in-bound international passengers to test for COVID-19 within 24 hours of departure starting on Monday, CNBC reports.
The new rule was one of a series of changes announced Thursday as part of a broader plan to bolster the nation’s arsenal of tools in its fight against the virus.
The plan is also the latest move by the Biden administration to stem the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The tightened pre-departure testing protocols will apply to all in-bound international travelers regardless of vaccination status.
Previously, the US required proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure, though this was tightened to only vaccinated travelers last month. Unvaccinated travelers had to have a negative COVID test within one day of departure.
Meanwhile, the mandate requiring masking while on buses, trains, planes and transportation hubs such as indoor bus terminals and airports, has been extended until March 18. Fines will remain doubled from their initial levels for noncompliance with the requirement, starting at $500, and going up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.
On Tuesday, top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said that it is too early to know whether the Omicron variant of COVID-19 will lead to severe disease, adding that preliminary information from South Africa indicates it does not result in unusual symptoms.
President Joe Biden said on Monday that the newly discovered Omicron variant “is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”
“We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we're learning more every single day. And we'll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion. We have more tools today to fight the variant than we've ever had before,” he added.
Later on Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new guidance recommending booster shots for all vaccinated people 18 and older.