Updated 12/3/21: The CDC requires 1-Day COVID-19 testing for all international arrivals age 2 and older to the U.S., regardless of vaccination status, effective December 6, 2021. The only exception is for travelers who recently recovered from COVID-19, who may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that the traveler was cleared to travel).
The U.S. Will Require 1-Day COVID-19 Testing for All International Arrivals Due to the Omicron Variant, which has already been detected in the U.S. An announcement is expected Thursday 12/2/21. Currently, fully vaccinated travelers may test 3 days before boarding a flight to the U.S., while unvaccinated travelers must test within 1 day prior to boarding. The new stricter testing requirement, according to a CDC statement on 11/30/21 and three federal health officials, would force all travelers, including returning Americans, to get tested one day before boarding, which could be difficult to impossible for Monday flights in destinations that don't offer testing on Sundays. If the proposed policy is implemented, it could take effect in 1-2 weeks, prior to the busy holiday travel season.
The new rules have been proposed as a way to limit the introduction and spread of the Omicron variant in the U.S. After the new variant emerged, the U.S., similar to many other countries, restricted travel from South Africa, as well as from 7 other African countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. But since then, the Omicron variant has been identified in a number of other countries, including Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and the UK, and now the U.S.: the first case has been detected in a fully vaccinated traveler who returned to California from South Africa on November 22, 2021. One estimate, as we noted in The Omicron Overreaction puts the approximate number of existing but undetected Omicron cases in the U.S. at ~2000.
In addition to the stricter 1-day testing requirement for all travelers entering the United States, the U.S. is considering a requirement to have all travelers self-quarantine for 7 days, even if their pre-travel COVID-19 test is negative. The self-quarantine measure is not in the current draft but could be added later.
Canada, which has already identified several Omicron cases, now requires all air passenger arrivals (except those coming from the U.S.) to take a COVID-19 test on arrival at the first Canadian airport they arrive at, and to self-isolate until they receive negative results from their on-arrival COVID-19 test.
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