New US travel rules for Omicron: What you need to know

(CNN) – Just when we thought the US travel rules were starting to stabilize, then Omicron.

The dominoes fell rapidly after South African health authorities informed the world of their discovery of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in late November.

The Biden administration has deployed controversial travel bans when coming from eight countries in southern Africa. Travelers find themselves unexpectedly stuck. And now US officials say they will tighten travel regulations again.

Things are changing by the day and even by the hour, but here are some of the questions people have about US travel rules – and the answers we have as of December 2nd:

Have the screening rules for entering the United States changed?

All domestic international travelers will be required to check in within one day of departure to the United States beginning Monday.

All flights departing after 12:01 a.m. ET on December 6 will be subject to the new CDC inspection order, according to a regulatory official.

President Joe Biden talks about the Omicron variant during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on Thursday.

President Joe Biden talks about the Omicron variant during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on Thursday.

Evan Vucci / AP

Currently, vaccinated travelers must check in within three days of departure. There is a requirement for foreign visitors to the United States to be fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated Americans and lawful permanent residents are allowed to enter this country with a test taken within one day of departure for the United States. The new rule will create a one-day testing timeframe for everyone.

Biden also announced that the federal mask regulation that requires travelers to wear masks in airports, airplanes, and on other public transport like trains and buses has been extended to March 18. .

A Covid-19 testing center operates inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on December 1.

A Covid-19 testing center operates inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on December 1.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Is there a post-arrival inspection or quarantine requirement?

Not available. “We did not announce any steps on testing and quarantine upon arrival,” a senior administration official said at a news conference on Wednesday night.

“I would say – look, if additional measures are recommended, if additional measures can be taken well and effectively, we will not hesitate to take them, but we will not apply them today,” the official said. One White House transcripts of that briefing.

Which countries are covered by the new US travel ban?

The travel ban was announced on November 26 for non-US citizens from eight countries in southern Africa. These are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

On November 27, CDC has booked it all at Level 4, the risk is “very high” for Covid-19. (Botswana is already at Level 4 because of its deposits – more than 500 per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days.)

Citizens of those countries and citizens of other countries who have been there in the past 14 days are not currently allowed to enter the United States.

Can US citizens already in those countries return?

Yes, they can.

As of December 2, they are still subject to the existing rules to re-enter: A negative result from a Covid-19 test within three days of travel if fully vaccinated and within one day of travel if unvaccinated.

Can US citizens still travel to banned countries?

Technically, yes.

For example, at least two US aircraft carriers are still flying back and forth between South Africa. Delta Air Lines is still providing Atlanta-Johannesburg service and United Airlines is still offering Newark-Johannesburg service.

United Airlines is also resuming non-stop service between Newark and Cape Town, according to a report from Tourism South Africa. The statement also said, “we want to emphasize that our country remains open to all visitors who wish to visit.”

An American family stuck in Johannesburg, South Africa, amid the new Covid-19 travel restrictions talks about their experience trying to return home.

Whether to go or not is another matter. CDC advises against doing so.

You may also encounter new travel barriers. For example, Zimbabwe has imposed a lockdown and mandatory quarantine on Tuesday, November 30 for tourists, state news agency NewZiana reported.

Visiting South African countries while a worldwide ban is in place may result in you being banned from other countries. Eg, Great Britain does not allow Anyone who has been to “red list” countries – which includes Angola and Zambia as well as the eight countries discussed above – is not allowed entry, except for returning nationals of that country.

What is the US doing to detect the virus?

The CDC also confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that officials have directed airlines carrying passengers who have been to several South African countries to share those passengers’ contact information with the agency.

Airlines have collected contact information from passengers according to CDC contact tracing order has been in effect since November 8.

CNN Travel will update this article as new information and rules change. Wayne Chang, Kaitlan Collins, Jacqueline Howard, Pete Muntean, Megan Vazquez and Greg Wallace of CNN contributed to this report.


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