International travel restrictionsThe Biden Administration has issued several orders aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19 from foreign countries. The executive order follows on the CDC’s orders the previous week which requires all travelers, including US citizens, to obtain a negative Covid-19 test no more than 3 days prior to entering the US from foreign countries. The new executive order will also require those arriving to self-quarantine for 10 days.

In addition, the executive order requires masks to be worn on most public transportation including planes, trains and buses, as well as in stations and airports. Further the order requires masks in federal buildings and national parks and monuments.

Confusion for travelers

These orders have caused a lot of confusion for international travelers. “While we understand the rationale behind the CDC’s Jan. 12 order, it will create a number of challenges for our members (travel agents), ranging from ensuring that clients can obtain testing in-destination without disrupting their return trip to the implications of a positive test (or a false positive) while abroad, to a general chilling effect on future bookings,” the American Society of Travel Advisors CEO Zane Kerby wrote.

It is unclear what happens to travelers who test positive and are left stranded. Where would a traveler stay? Where would they find medical care? How do they pay for the extra expenses associated the positive test results?

Because of the uncertainty caused by these new regulations, United Airlines has reported a decline in reservations and an increase in cancellations. The US State Department’s response is to advise against international travel for the foreseeable future.

Hope for clarification

The new executive order attempts to clarify the CDC order by requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services (who hasn’t been confirmed yet) to “assess” the CDC rule related to the types, timing of tests, proof  of results, and availability of foreign testing within 14 days and then to take appropriate regulatory action. The secretary must consider “the feasibility of implementing alternative and sufficiently protective public health measures, such as testing, self-quarantine, and self-isolation on arrival, for travelers entering the United States from countries where COVID-19 tests are inaccessible, particularly where such inaccessibility of tests would affect the ability of…citizens to return.”

Finally the executive order requires the Secretary of State (who has not been confirmed yet) to consult foreign governments, the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association, and any other relevant stakeholders to establish guidelines for public health measures associated with safe international travel. The point of this consultation is to explore “the feasibility of linking COVID-19 vaccination to International Certificates of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) and producing electronic versions of ICVPs.”  Such actions would greatly clarify, standardize and simplify international travel.

Related article: CDC requires Covid-19 test for international arrivals within 72-hours of departure

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Abercrombie Kent

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