The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that the US is set to impose new Covid restrictions, requiring a negative test within one day of travel for all arrivals, including vaccinated people.
The move comes after the CDC confirmed America's first case of the Omicron variant in California in an individual who arrived from South Africa on November 22. The fully vaccinated traveler later tested positive on November 29 after showing mild symptoms.
"CDC is working to modify the current global testing order for travel as we learn more about the omicron variant," CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund confirmed on Thursday, adding that "a revised order would shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure."
Currently, the US denies entry to unvaccinated individuals from other countries, while fully inoculated people who have received approved vaccines can travel to America if they provide a negative Covid test taken within three days of arrival. The CDC also encourages vaccinated individuals to take a test on the third to fifth day after they enter the US.
As part of the measures set to come into effect, the CDC has announced that it is working on boosting surveillance at its four largest international airports, in Atlanta, New Jersey, New York, and San Francisco, so officials can offer Covid tests for foreign travelers.
The travel rules, combined with the call for all Americans to get the Covid vaccine and have a booster shot if they are over 18 and had their second dose over six months ago, is designed to help contain the spread of the new strain and prevent the US from being overwhelmed by a new wave of infections.
The World Health Organization (WHO) identified Omicron as a "variant of concern" last week, after it was detected in over 20 countries. Alongside its designation, the WHO called for a boost in surveillance and testing, as well as Covid safety measures, such as mask wearing and social distancing.