To combat the spread of the new omicron COVID-19 variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tightening testing requirements for international travelers.
Currently, air travelers to the United States who have not recently recovered from the virus – including US citizens – must take a negative viral test before boarding their flight, with fully vaccinated travelers having to do so at most. three days before departure. But the CDC said on Tuesday it was “working to change” the world order of testing to give all international air travelers a single day to take a pre-departure test, as the Washington Post first reported.
“This reinforces the already strong protocols in place for international travel,” the CDC said in a statement.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky told a press conference on Tuesday that the CDC is “evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible,” which could mean shortening the pre-departure testing window or adding more testing. additional after arrival and a self-quarantine period.
The agency says it continues to recommend that all travelers take a COVID-19 viral test three to five days after arrival, and that all unvaccinated travelers should self-quarantine upon arrival.
The United States is also working to stem the spread of the virus with new travel bans against eight countries that went into effect on Monday. The omicron variant has not yet been detectedin the USA
WHO releases new omicron travel guide
Also on Tuesday, the World Health Organization updated its travel guidelines to say that all unvaccinated travelers over the age of 60 are among those expected to postpone their trip due to the omicron variant.
The announcement is another sign that restrictions on international travel, which have become more lenient in recent months, are tightening again to fight the new variant.
Although much about the new variant is still unknown, the WHO has suggested that some travelers postpone their trips to areas of community transmission. This includes unvaccinated travelers who have not recovered from the virus and “are at increased risk of developing serious illness and dying,” such as people over the age of 60 and those with co-morbidities such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
The WHO on Friday called the new strain a “variant of concern” because of its “large number of mutations,” and since then a growing number of countries have reported the variant. The United Nations agency expects more countries to discover the virus inside their borders in the coming days.
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Preliminary evidence suggests that the new variant may carry an increased risk of reinfection compared to other variants, but health officials say it will be weeks before the seriousness of the new strain is fully understood.
“Studies are underway to better understand these mutations and their impact on transmissibility, virulence, diagnostics, therapies and vaccines,” the WHO said.
The new directions emerging from the omicron variant could potentially be another blow to the global travel industry. The travel and tourism sector lost nearly $ 4.5 trillion in 2020, with contributions to global GDP down 49% from 2019, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz.