President Biden Requires International Travelers to the U.S. To Test COVID-Negative
Starting tomorrow, international travelers to the United States now have to provide proof of negative COVID tests three days prior to travel, said Jen Psaki, the White House's press secretary, who added that President Joe Biden is following the guidelines of both his COVID-advisory team and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although the new international travel restrictions can help to slow the spread of COVID-19, some experts say that the president’s strategy is not fool-proof.
“This new requirement actually does have some flaws,” said Eyal Oren, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and the Interim Director for the School of Public Health at San Diego State University. “For one, if you test negative you could still, from the time you test [until the time you travel], still acquire the virus, so it’s very important even in that time window to quarantine yourself.”
Dr. Oren also worries that people might feel a false sense of security that they are COVID negative if they take the rapid antigen tests, which are 20% less effective than the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) lab tests, which take two or three days to provide results.
“You can get some false assurance thinking your negative when in fact you’d test positive with the PCR test that would pick up a lower viral load,” said Dr. Oren, who added that other countries that have been requiring travelers to provide negative test results before entry has been successful in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in their countries.
“Testing people three days out via the PCR testing, but not the less effective rapid testing, is approximately 75% effective in keeping infected people off planes in the first place,” said Oren.
In light of the continued emergence of more virulent COVID strains, President Biden, who just added South Africa to a restricted travel list, is also expected to reinstate previous U.S. travel restrictions that would affect non-American citizens traveling from the United Kingdom, Ireland, and much of Europe. Travelers from Brazil would also be affected.
“With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” said Psaki, who was referring to travel restrictions that had been in place for months, but were lifted by former President Donald Trump just before he left office.
Photo by Adam Schultz / Biden for President