WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden began turning the tide on the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday with a 10-point winter strike on the Omicron variant that caused a flight from Canada to the United States on the eve of the season. Travel becomes more complicated.
As of Monday, Canadians and all other foreign travelers arriving in the United States by air will be required to take a COVID-19 test no later than 24 hours before departure.
Biden is cutting the testing period – currently 72 hours for fully vaccinated travelers – as part of a suite of public health measures to slow and limit the spread of a virus. highly mutated variant that has more questions than answers.
“All incoming international travelers must be screened within one day of departure, regardless of their immunization status or nationality,” Biden said as he outlined the plan at the National Institutes of Health headquarters in Washington. Bethesda, just north of DC.
“This more rigorously tested timeline provides an additional level of protection and scientists continue to study the Omicron variant.”
This plan also extends into March, requiring domestic and international passengers traveling by air, railway and public transport to wear masks, including inside airports and train stations. and bus station.
The White House is also increasing outreach and outreach to encourage Americans to qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot, accelerating research into vaccinating children under age 5, opening expand access to at-home tests and donate 200 million more vaccines. doses around the world within the next 100 days.
Biden said it was a plan that “doesn’t do any punches” and is the same as bringing a fractured country back together and preventing another wave of deadly infections.
“I know COVID-19 has been hugely divisive in this country; it’s become a political issue, that’s a sad commentary,” he said.
“I hope this is the moment when we can put the divisions behind us. This is the moment when we can do what we haven’t been able to do enough of during this entire pandemic: put the whole country on leash. come together, unite the nation in a common purpose.”
Currently, fully vaccinated travelers don’t need to show test results to drive into the US, said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, nor did she mention whether that could change in the coming weeks. next days or weeks or not.
Martin Firestone, a travel insurance broker in Toronto, says he’s been unsuccessful in recent weeks as clients seek clarity on the ever-changing constellation of travel rules – and he He hopes that will continue to roll out with the latest glitches.
Firestone says he’s heard from customers who say they’re having a hard time finding an affordable antigen test with a turnaround time of less than 24 hours, forcing them to pay fees for testing options. test faster.
Firestone said: “They call Shoppers (Drug Mart) and they say they can’t get you back fast enough to make sure you have it solid before you get on your 8am flight.
“So they’re forced to go to private medical clinics, where the cost of a quick check, to get it back in 15 minutes, is $350, if you can believe it.”
Psaki was asked on Thursday about potential challenges of the 24-hour screening and said the White House was looking into the matter, but could not immediately say if there were any exceptions.
She also points out that there are still too many unknowns around Omicron to predict any future changes to international travel restrictions.
“I wouldn’t expect the restrictions to be lifted before we know more about the variant,” Psaki said.
“We will continue to assess whether additional restrictions need to be introduced. None of these measures are permanent. None of them are penalties. All are put in place. out to protect the American people, hopefully saving more lives.”
Omicron’s rise only marks the latest turning point in the long road back to some form of normalcy for those who frequently travel between the two countries.
Before the latest variant came out, there was growing dissent around US restrictions on the Canada-US land border, which lasted nearly 20 months until they were eased in. early November.
This time, however, the response was more muted.
“It has been known for a long time that measures to combat the virus and its variants will evolve,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy at the American Travel Association. and requires us to be agile and adaptive.
“It is extremely important that we clearly communicate these policy changes to global travelers and continue to welcome all qualified visitors to the United States.”
Meanwhile, Canada has now exempted American travelers from its own strict new rules, which require all other non-foreign customers to be screened on arrival and self-quarantine pending results. .
Fully vaccinated US and Canadian citizens and permanent residents must still provide proof of a recent negative COVID test along with proof of vaccination in order to enter Canada.
Travelers are developing a serious case of travel rules, Firestone said.
“They’re mentally exhausted. It plays mind games with you,” he said.
“The bottom line is that we’ve taken two steps back in the last short time. We’ve really been on a nice trajectory and I think the combination of variation, along with the new rules, comes in. out, has really put us in 8 balls.”
The Canadian government has so far not said whether it hopes the waiver for passengers flying from the US will change before Monday.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the government will consult with provinces and territories on whether to apply similar measures to visitors from the US, but has not yet It was clear on Thursday whether such changes would occur.
This Canadian Press report was first published on December 2, 2021.