Officials deliberated on the potential changes on Tuesday evening and no final decision has been made, but the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed in a statement that the agency is working to revise the testing requirements. for travelers due to the new Omicron variant.
“A revised order would shorten the timeframe for required tests for all international air travelers to one day before departure for the United States,” a CDC spokesperson said in a statement. “This reinforces the already strong protocols in place for international travel, including the requirements for foreign travelers to be fully immunized.”
Currently, vaccinated travelers are required to get tested three days before departure. The envisaged decision would reduce this period to one day.
A mandatory quarantine for returning US citizens is not under consideration, according to a White House official.
“The administration continues to assess appropriate measures to protect the American people from COVID-19, especially as we learn more about the Omicron variant, including considering more stringent testing requirements for international travel. Political discussions are underway within the government and no final decisions have been made, “a White House official told CNN.
CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky told reporters earlier Tuesday that the agency “is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including pre-departure testing closer to flight time and flight times. considerations for additional post-arrival testing and self-quarantines. “
Walensky also said the CDC was expanding surveillance at four major international airports to monitor the Omicron variant among travelers.
US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy told CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” Tuesday night that “the CDC is currently considering a number of measures. It has yet to fully decide what it will implement. , but I believe some of the measures he is considering will have a substantial impact on our ability to detect the virus before it gets here. ”
On Monday, the United States banned all travel from South Africa and seven neighboring countries, except for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, who must test negative to enter the United States but not a once arrived.
When asked on Tuesday how long the current travel restrictions would remain in place, President Joe Biden said: “Well, it kind of depends.”
“It goes from week to week, to determine what we need and what the state of affairs is. We will learn a lot more over the next two weeks about the lethality of this virus, how far it is spreading, whether what we have can control it, etc. ”he continued.
Biden is expected to unveil a federal strategy to fight Covid-19 this winter on Thursday. The president said the new strategy would focus “not on closures or blockages, but on more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more.”
The Biden administration has so far indicated that new travel restrictions are not planned.
Research on the new variant – including its severity, transmissibility and detectability – is evolving rapidly.
On Monday, Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, said on CNN’s “The Lead” that while PCR Covid-19 detection tests and some rapid antigen tests could detect the new variant, he could was not clear if all rapid tests could detect this. But Jeff Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, confirmed on Tuesday that the FDA believes “high-volume PCR and rapid antigen testing widely used in the United States will be effective in detecting the variant. “. cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant have been mild so far. But scientists say it will take weeks to find out how dangerous the new variant is. The Omicron variant has not yet been detected in the United States. However, public health and government officials have repeatedly stressed that current travel restrictions on southern African countries will not necessarily prevent the variant from arriving in the United States. On the contrary, they will give the country some time to prepare for it.
“Travel restrictions can slow Omicron’s speed, they can’t stop it,” the president said on Monday. “But here’s what it does: It gives us time. It gives us time to take more action, to act faster, to make sure people understand that you need to get the vaccine.”
This story was updated with additional details on Tuesday.
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