President Biden will on Thursday announce a COVID-19 “winter plan” that imposes new, but less stringent than feared, international travel rules and mandates that health insurance companies pay for COVID-19 rapid testing at home.
Air travelers to the U.S. will have to test negative within a day of their flight, rather than within three days, but Biden opted out of draconian ideas that are reportedly under review due to fears of the potentially more contagious Omicron variant.
Biden’s team had considered forcing U.S. citizens to a seven-day mandatory self-quarantine after returning from abroad and requiring them to test negative three to five days after arrival under threat of legal punishment. according to Washington Post.
A senior administration official briefing journalists on the new policies suggested they doubted such aggressive measures could be implemented effectively – after the possible steps sparked panic among Americans traveling on work or vacation.
“We are not announcing any steps for testing and quarantine after arrival,” the official said, adding that the United States had a “fairly strong system” for international arrivals by requiring pre-flight testing and requiring most aliens to be vaccinated.
“If further measures are recommended, if further measures can be implemented well and are effective, we will not hesitate to take them, but we will not take them today,” she said.
The new international travel rules will continue to allow air passengers to choose between more accurate PCR tests and less accurate rapid tests. Some countries require PCR testing for air passengers.
The bite will also extend until March 18 a rule requiring masks on public transportation including trains and planes. And he will encourage people to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.
The new policy, which gives Americans free quick tests, does not take effect immediately, but can dramatically extend the test. Quick tests available from retailers such as CVS Pharmacy currently cost more than $ 20 each.
“To extend the availability and affordability of COVID-19 tests in the home, the Department of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury will issue guidance by January 15 to clarify that individuals who purchase [over-the-counter] COVID-19 diagnostic tests will be able to seek reimbursement from their group health plan or health insurance issuer and have insurance that covers the costs under the public health emergency, “according to a fact sheet.
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