DECEMBER 8, 2021

Last week, the White House announced that it was tightening its testing and mask requirements in response to the COVID-19 Omicron variant. The Biden 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, 2022. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will extend its implementing orders to maintain these requirements through March 18. Fines will continue to be doubled from their initial levels for non-compliance with the masking requirements – with a minimum fine of $500 and fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.

Additionally, in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US has updated its pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travelers two years and older, including US citizens and residents, to test within one day of departure globally, regardless of nationality or vaccination status.

As of December 6, all travelers flying into the US are required to provide:
  • A negative COVID-19 antigen viral test taken within one calendar day before boarding, or alternatively, documentation showing recovery from COVID-19 within 90 days prior to the flight. Travelers must show the negative result or documentation to the airline before boarding their flight.
  • A completed and signed disclosure and attestation form submitted to the airline before boarding.

For non-US citizens, the above testing requirements are in addition to full vaccination status, unless exemptions are met. There is currently no testing requirement after arrival; however, the CDC recommends all inbound international air travelers get another viral test three to five days after arrival, and says unvaccinated travelers should quarantine for seven days after travel.

To read the updated CDC order, click here. Click "Read More" for additional information from the CDC's website.

The United Kingdom has announced additional entry requirements for international travelers, including those coming from non-red-listed countries. As of December 7, all international travelers aged 12 and over, regardless of vaccination status, will need to provide proof of a negative pre-departure test—either PCR or lateral flow (LFD)—taken no more than 48 hours prior to their departure for the UK. Airlines will be responsible for checking that travelers have their negative pre-departure tests, and no one will be permitted to board a UK-bound flight without one. These are temporary measures that have been introduced to prevent further Omicron cases from entering the UK, and will be re-examined at the three-week review point on December 20.

The UK also announced that Nigeria is being added to its “red list” from December 6, after 21 cases of the Omicron variant discovered in England were linked to travel from the African nation. A temporary ban will be placed on all non-UK citizens and residents who have been in Nigeria, while UK and Irish citizens returning home from Nigeria will be required to isolate in a government-approved managed quarantine facility for 10 days, and get two negative PCR tests during that same interval. A number of other African countries, including Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, are already part of the UK's red list, therefore being subject to a special set of travel restrictions. Click "Read More" for the complete update from the UK's government website.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has stated that it expects high travel volumes into the December holidays and encourages travelers planning to travel this holiday season to sign up for TSA PreCheck to provide more convenience and save time at the airport. “We see a strengthening in the airline travel industry toward pre-pandemic levels and our goal is to ensure you as the passenger have a safe and secure flight,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We work hard with our airport and airline partners to achieve this by ensuring screening operations meet the upcoming demand. I also want to thank our Transportation Security Officers across the country who, each and every day, meet the travel volume demand and help keep airport screening lanes moving to ensure millions of passengers arrive at their destinations safely.”

In order to keep screening lanes moving quickly throughout the holiday season, the TSA recommends that travelers should:
  • Be flexible and consider booking flights outside of normal airport rush hours, which are normally between 5-7 am or 4-6 pm. Check all carriers, as they might have other flight options.
  • Pack smart by contacting TSA or visiting the What Can I Bring webpage before arriving at the airport.
  • Arrive early at the security checkpoint: two hours for domestic flights or three hours for international flights.
  • Follow signs and verbal direction provided by Transportation Security Officers (TSO) to help keep screening lanes moving.
  • Be patient and considerate of others. TSOs are working as fast as they can and many travelers are flying for the first time since the pandemic began.
  • Avoid fines by properly packing carry-on items and respecting TSA officers, flight crew, and other frontline workers.
  • Join TSA PreCheck or renew existing membership before the holidays. In October, the TSA lowered the online renewal fee for PreCheck from $85 to $70.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that Andorra, Cyprus, France, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Portugal, and Tanzania have been added to Level 4 of the agency’s travel advisory list due to growing concerns about the COVID-19 Omicron variant, reports Travel Pulse. A Level 4 travel alert advises individuals to "avoid travel to these destinations" even if vaccinated. Countries and territories in this group have an infection incidence rate of more than 500 new cases per 100,000 people over the past 28 days (or, in places with fewer than 100,000 residents, more than 500 cases cumulatively over the past 28 days). The CDC now lists 83 destinations on its highest travel advisory level.
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