The US government has confirmed plans to introduce tighter testing requirements for all arrivals in light of the emergence of the Omicrom variant.
The anticipated move will see all arrivals required to produce a negative Covid-19 test taken within 24 hours of travel, regardless of vaccination status.
Previously, fully-vaccinated travellers were required to present a test taken within three days of travel.
A White House statement confirmed the tightened restrictions would come into play from “early next week”.
On Wednesday this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed it was looking to modify America’s Global Testing Order to enforce a shorter timeline for testing requirements.
The Associated Press reported that other measures being considered included the extension of post-arrival testing requirements and possible quarantine for arrivals, though no further detail has emerged on either.
The White House statement said: “Early next week, the United States will tighten pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travellers to test within one day of departure globally, regardless of nationality or vaccination status.
“This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the Omicron variant.”
The statement also confirmed that a mandate to wear face masks on flights and in airports would be extended to March 18, 2022, with a minimum fine of $500 for non-compliance rising to up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.
US Travel Association public affairs and policy executive vice president Tori Emerson Barnes said: “We hope this measure to narrow the pre-departure testing window will be temporary until more is learned about the Omicron variant. In the meantime, the travel industry urges everyone to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.
“It has long been known that measures to combat the virus and its variants would evolve and require us to be nimble and adapt.
“It is critically important that we communicate these policy changes clearly to global travellers and continue to welcome all qualified visitors to the United States.”
American Express Global Business Travel’s chief commercial officer Drew Crawley said: “It is reassuring to see the White House taking proportionate mitigation measures that support public health protection while keeping travel and the economy moving.
“The industry has been investing in traveler safety and wellbeing since the start of the pandemic. We have the agility to keep travelers informed and supported when their trips and plans are disrupted, and systems that can comply with and complement evolving travel requirements.”