The U.S. tightens COVID-19 testing for travelers

Air travelers will be required to provide a negative test within 24 hours of their departure in the US.

In response to fears over a new coronavirus variant, the U.S. is planning to require all air travelers entering the nation to produce a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The decision to strengthen the testing regime reflects rising concern about the Omicron variant, a highly mutated form of the virus discovered in a few countries around the world after being first documented by researchers in South Africa. International flight travelers who have been vaccinated can now present a negative test result acquired within three days from their departure. To enter the U.S. nearly all foreign nationals must be immunized. Travelers who have not been vaccinated must acquire a negative test within one day of arriving.

Both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals would be subject to the new one-day testing requirement. A CDC spokeswoman confirmed the agency is working to modify its global testing rules for travel "as we learn more about the Omicron variant; a revised order would shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure to the United States. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the agency "is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including pre-departure testing closer to the time of flight and considerations around additional post-arrival testing and self-quarantines." On Monday, the White House barred nearly all foreign nationals who have recently been in South Africa and seven other southern African countries over concerns about the Omicron variant.