Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
Newly-inaugurated United States President Joe Biden has jumped straight into travel restrictions, signing a burst of orders on Thursday (Jan. 21) that include a requirement that all travellers entering the U.S. must complete a quarantine upon arrival.
It was one of ten executive orders that Biden, fresh into his presidency, has kickstarted as part of his national COVID-19 strategy.
(Click here to read Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel in full).
Mandatory quarantine has previously been an unenforced guidance in the United States, but Biden's new order falls in line with U.S. health officials, who have recommended a shortened quarantine period from 14 to 10 or seven days.
In December, the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said people can end their quarantine time after 10 days if no symptoms are reported, and individuals can end their quarantine time sooner, after seven days, if they test negative and show no symptoms of the virus.
READ MORE: U.S. health officials shorten 14-day quarantine – will Canada do the same?
Another travel-specific order from Biden requires passengers and employees to wear face coverings on public transportation, such as planes, trains, buses and subways.
(Former U.S. President Donald Trump had blocked a similar effort).
While all U.S. carriers have had some form of rule that passengers must cover their face on flights, the enforcement of it all has been inconsistent, critics say.
Biden also indicated that he wants U.S. agencies to talk with Canada and Mexico about COVID-19 protocols at ports of entry to the country.
“The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of CDC, shall immediately commence diplomatic outreach to the governments of Canada and Mexico regarding public health protocols for land ports of entry,” the order states.
COVID tests required
Additionally, starting Jan. 26, all air passengers entering the U.S. will be required to obtain a COVID-19 test within three days (72 hours) of their departure flight and show written documentation of their negative results.
READ MORE: All air travellers arriving in U.S. must provide negative COVID-19 test, says CDC
Passengers that do not comply with the new rules will be denied boarding by their airline, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Biden hasn’t indicated how violators of a mask-wearing or quarantining rules will be punished.
His order, however, dictates that federal agencies have 14 days to determine the type of testing required for visitors and how travellers should document their tests.
More barriers to travel
The news will undoubtedly come as yet another hit to Canada’s travel industry.
While select Canadian airlines have maintained some routes to U.S. cities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for air travel has plunged since the Canadian government launched its own pre-departure testing rules on Jan. 7.
Carriers have had no choice but to slash routes and staffing, with CBC reporting that at least 50,000 flight reservations have been cancelled this month alone (although it is still unclear as to where those flights were going).
At his inaugural address, President Biden acknowledged the urgency of his mission to turn the tide on the pandemic in America, which, as of Jan. 21, has recorded 24,626,879 cases of COVID-19 with 410,102 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus,” Biden said.
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