Breaking news coming out of Washington D.C. as newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden has signed an executive order mandating not just face masks on airplanes and in airports but also a 10-day self-quarantine for international arrivals. The policy’s official start date has not been announced, but it is expected to go into effect shortly.
President Biden mandates quarantines
Shortly after taking office, President Biden started making moves toward combating the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One of the first things he indicated as President-elect was that he would move to mandate face coverings in public transportation. That executive order has already been signed.
Now, just a day into his term, President Biden signed an Executive Order entitled Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel. This executive order requires international arrivals to have a negative COVID-19 test result prior to departure from January 26th onwards and mandates a 10-day quarantine on arrival. The testing requirement is a carryover from the Trump Administration.
The announcement was wrapped into the release of a document titled the “National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.” President Biden also made an address on his COVID-19 policies.
This afternoon, I’ll be taking decisive action to change the course of this pandemic and get COVID-19 under control. Tune in. https://t.co/v23hhuTktf
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 21, 2021
Official details are not yet available as the government works out from when the mandate will go into effect, but it is expected to go into effect within several days. Passengers who are coming to the US should check with their airline on the latest information.
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Hope for some relief
Within the large document, the Biden Administration announced it would also “consult with foreign governments and international organizations regarding [testing and quarantines]. The Administration will work with foreign governments and other stakeholders to establish guidelines for and to implement public health measures for safe international travel, including at land and sea borders.” US and foreign airlines have been hoping for some travel corridors.
President Biden appears ready to work with international governments to open up travel that perhaps would require testing on both arrival and departure to skip out on a quarantine. Until those agreements are in place, which could take some time, it appears that travelers to the US will need to quarantine upon arrival for some time.
President Biden is expected to provide more details on his international travel plans related to COVID-19. He has not stated that he has plans to re-allow travel from countries like Brazil, the UK, and member states of the European Union.
The quarantine mandate
More details are to come, but passengers who are expected to arrive in the US in the next few weeks should be prepared for a quarantine mandate on arrival. The US does not appear to be taking a strict stance like Australia, where international arrivals have to go straight to a hotel, but instead a self-quarantine at a location of the passenger’s choosing.
There are no details on how it will be enforced, but several states already have some experience working with quarantine mandates, such as Hawaii. Expect the US to release guidance to ensure self-quarantines and minimize the risk of viral spread. President Biden cited the discovery of new strains in various countries as one reason for the quarantine mandates.
I have travel plans for the US, what should I do?
If you are scheduled to travel to the US, for now, wait. Keep your travel plans intact, but start exploring your options if you have to self-quarantine for 10 days. Many airlines also have flexible booking policies currently, so check if your reservation would qualify for a free change or cancelation if you wish to amend your trip. You may not be entitled to a refund because of the new quarantine mandate, so wait until all the details come forth before canceling a trip.
If you are scheduled to depart the country and return to the US, it is also advisable to wait before modifying your trip. President Biden has not yet announced a sunset date for the policy, which will likely be evaluated on a near-term basis.
For now, passengers should act with patience and wait before modifying their reservations or scuttling plans entirely.
Are you glad to see the US institute quarantine requirements for inbound international travelers? Let us know in the comments!