U.S. President Joe Biden is tightening pre-departure protocols and scrapping the 72-hour testing window for fully vaccinated travellers as part of new measures aimed at halting the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
Starting “early next week,” Canadians and all other foreign travellers entering the United States by air will need to get a COVID-19 test no later than the day before their departure.
The White House shared some details of the plan in a briefing posted on Wednesday (Dec. 1).
The news release, framed around protecting Americans against the Delta and Omicron variants “as we battle COVID-19 this winter,” does not make any mention of how testing will apply at the Canada-U.S. land border, where pre-arrival tests, on the U.S. side, are not required.
“This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the Omicron variant,” the news release reads.
The U.S., currently, requires pre-departure COVID-19 testing (PCR or antigen), acquired within 72 hours, for air travellers entering the country. The revised policy would, of course, shorten that timeline.
The U.S. is also extending its requirement to wear a mask on airplanes, rail travel, and public transportation.
“The Administration will continue to require masking during international or other public travel – as well as in transportation hubs such as airports or indoor bus terminals – through March 18 as we continue to battle COVID-19 this winter,” the White House stated.
It's been less than a month since the U.S. lifted its restrictions on fully vaccinated non-essential travellers seeking to enter the country by land from Canada and Mexico.
On Nov. 8, the U.S. also eased its international travel rules, putting an end to bans on specific countries.