The administration of President Joe Biden could enact strict entry requirements for all travelers arriving in the country, including returning Americans, with the aim of curbing the spread of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron. In a report by The Washington Post, the U.S Government would require all persons entering the country to take a negative PCR test one day before boarding a flight, regardless of their vaccination status or country of residence.
In addition to these heightened security measures, travelers could be retested within three to five days upon arrival in the United States. The new restrictions are expected to be announced on Thursday, claims the Washington Post, adding that the administration could mandate all visitors, including U.S citizens, to self-quarantine for seven days even if a coronavirus PCR test is negative. In the event that travelers do not comply with these new guidelines, they are subject to fines and penalties, according to a draft presented by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to which the Washington Post had access.
Currently, the United States requires coronavirus testing before departure for vaccinated and unvaccinated air travelers, but is stricter for those who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine. The unvaccinated must present a negative test within 24 hours prior to the flight, while the vaccinated must do the same, but within a 72 hour time frame.
The government’s pandemic response team stated Tuesday that it could take weeks, between two and four, until they have sufficient information on Omicron, its transmission capacity and aggressiveness. The administration’s epidemiologist, Dr.Antony Fauci, as well as director of the Centers for Disease Control, Rochelle Walensky, and coordinator of the White House pandemic response, Jeff Zients, insisted on all U.S citizens to get the vaccine booster, or first dose if they have not been inoculated.
The Biden administration moved to restrict travel from eight African nations after researchers in South Africa identified the new variant. Dr.Fauci on Wednesday confirmed the first case of Omicron in the state of California. “We knew that it was just a matter of time before the first case of Omicron would be detected in the United States,” stated the White House medical advisor. As governments announce restrictions on mobility for foreign visitors, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned recent travel bans against several southern African countries as “unfair, punitive and ineffective.”
The proposed restrictions could result in a host of travel cancellations and flight bookings from Colombia just weeks before the start of the busy end-of-year holidays. The U.S receives over 200,000 people every day at airports and overland border crossings. According to the Washington Post, the stricter measures are part of the “covid winter strategy.”
Colombia’s Minister of Health Fernando Ruíz released official government numbers on Tuesday that show that more than 70% of Colombians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and “surpassing numbers of richer nations.” With a 71% percentage in first dose coverage, Colombia ranks between Vietnam, United Kingdom and Brazil. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health reported 2,296 additional cases of coronavirus, putting the national total at 5,069.644. Colombia’s 2,296 cases over the past 24 hours contrast with 48,374 in the UK, 47,177 in France, and 68,680 in Germany.