What You Should Know About the New COVID Travel Rules That Start Today

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If you’re planning an international trip (or if you’re on one right now), it’s time to brush up on the COVID-related regulations, because testing requirements changed, and they take effect today. Also, remember how the Biden administration decided in early November that country-based travel bans are a bad idea? They’re back.

You now need a test one day before departure on your trip

When traveling to (or returning to) the U.S., you’ll need a negative viral test. Until recently, vaccinated travelers could get this test three days before departure. That was handy for scheduling, and also gave you some extra time in case the place that handles your test takes time to get results back. But now, everybody is back to a one-day requirement, vaccinated or not.

This is based on calendar days, so no matter what time your flight is on Tuesday, you can get your test anytime on Monday. You’re still recommended (but not required) to get a viral test three to five days after returning home, and to quarantine for seven days.

The exceptions: children under 2 years old don’t need the test, and people who have recovered from COVID in the past 90 days can skip the test if they have medical records documenting their illness.

These changes mean you’ll need to do a little more planning. If you’re traveling to another country, do you know where you can get a test before you board your flight home? How long will that testing site take to give you results? USA Today recommends that rather than relying on standard PCR tests, you look up which rapid tests are approved by the CDC and use one of those. Some self-tests are allowed, although the only kinds that counts for this regulation are the ones where you do the test while on a video call with a medical professional.

Country-based travel bans are back

Just weeks after dropping the whole concept of country-based travel bans, COVID travel bans are back. Eight African countries are now on the list. If you are a U.S. citizen, you can still travel to the U.S. from these countries; if you aren’t, though, you may not travel to the U.S. if you have spent any time in these countries in the 14 days before departure. The countries are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

The travel ban, which went into effect on November 26, is meant to slow the spread of the Omicron variant, even though Omicron is known to be circulating in many parts of the world, including 17 U.S. states.

If this is all getting confusing, the CDC has a flowchart here so you can figure out which travel regulations apply to you. There is also a quiz version.

 

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