New regulations for travel to US: negative COVID-19 test and quarantine

The United States suffers the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world—over 25 million.
The CDC requires a negative COVID-19 test result for travelers entering the United States as new-infection rates remain high; Miami International Airport in March 2020. (Photo: Associated Press/Wilfredo Lee)
The CDC requires a negative COVID-19 test result for travelers entering the United States as new-infection rates remain high; Miami International Airport in March 2020. (Photo: Associated Press/Wilfredo Lee)

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – On Tuesday, Washington began to require that all individuals flying into the country from abroad—US citizens, legal permanent residents, and foreigners—present negative results from a COVID-19 test before boarding any US-bound airline.

In addition, after they arrive in the US, inbound passengers are required to self-quarantine for seven days.

Finally, entry for individuals who have been in certain countries during the previous 14 days is prohibited: China, Iran, Europe (the Schengen zone), the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa.

The US suffers the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world—over 25 million, more than twice the number of cases in the country with the second-highest tally, India. The US also has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths: over 425,000.

From the onset, Donald Trump never really wanted to deal with this health crisis. “We have it totally under control,” Trump said last January, as the issue arose, while he was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “It’s going to be just fine,” he affirmed then.

Trump seems to have understood that to deal with the challenge, people would have to avoid contact with one another and that would hurt the economy—and, along with it, his chances for re-election.

As it turned out, however, Trump’s dismal performance in dealing with the pandemic proved to be a significant factor in his electoral defeat.

Joe Biden: This is War

“This is a wartime effort,” the new president, Joe Biden, said on Tuesday, speaking at the White House.

“When I say that, people ask, ‘Wartime?’” he continued. And, “I say, Yeah, more than 400,000 Americans have already died,” he stated. “More than all the Americans who died in World War Two,” he observed, as he affirmed, “This is a wartime undertaking. It’s not hyperbole.”

Americans have become used to quite comfortable lives. The last big shock for them was the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, followed by the appearance of highly lethal anthrax in the US mail. However, President George W. Bush did not want people to panic—so he told them to act as they normally would and go shopping!

“I have urged our fellow Americans to go about their lives, to fly on airplanes, to travel, to go to work,” Bush said in early October. “We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don't conduct business, where people don’t shop.”

Whether the objective of “the terrorists” was merely to frighten people is very debatable, and the appropriate response—go shopping—equally debatable.

In any case, it has been many decades since Americans were told there was a problem so serious, it was akin to war. Thus, they are now startled to hear that sacrifices even remotely similar to those endured by previous generations might be required of them.

Tough Love

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Ian Brownlee, the State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs, had a strong warning for Americans who are considering traveling abroad.

Brownlee’s first point of advice was to “seriously reconsider” such travel. Moreover, if you are already overseas, he said, “It’s going to be harder to come home for a while.”

Thus, Americans who are now abroad have had little warning. Before they can return home, they must produce documentation of a negative COVID-19 test.

“If you cannot easily access a COVID-19 test or if you test positive,” Brownlee explained, “you will end up overseas for much longer than you planned.”

In that event, “You will be responsible for covering your own lodging and medical costs,” he continued.

Dr. Marty Cetron, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Director for Global Migration and Quarantine, explained one reason for the tough measures being imposed by the Biden administration (and by other countries as well.)

New strains of COVID-19 are emerging. They are “potentially more contagious,” Cetron said, than the original form of COVID-19, and possibly they will not be as susceptible to the vaccines that have been developed to counter it.

In particular, Cetron cited the virus variants that have emerged in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil.

He also underscored Brownlee’s point about avoiding unnecessary trips.

“This is really not a time for people to be engaging in discretionary travel” and “all travel should be postponed until we get a better handle on getting this virus under control,” Cetron stated.

Enforcing Quarantine?

Although the Biden administration has called for a seven-day quarantine for all returning travelers, it has proposed no means to enforce it, nor any penalties for violating it.

Some countries “with low coronavirus rates, such as Australia, New Zealand, and parts of China” have required that incoming travelers quarantine at “designated facilities,” The Washington Post explained.

The British government is about to impose a similar requirement with travelers obliged to pay for their meals and lodging, while in quarantine at a designated facility. The Tory government appears inclined to limit that requirement to those travelers arriving from high-risk countries, while the Labor opposition is demanding that those arriving from a broader range of countries be subject to the new quarantine.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany