Coronavirus

What are Biden's new US coronavirus travel restrictions? When is the mask mandate extended until?

The news of a new covid-19 variant means the Biden administration is pushing for extending the mask mandate until March.

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What are Biden's new US coronavirus travel restrictions? When is the mask mandate extended until?
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds AFP

On December 2, President Biden announced that the mask mandate for people on transport would be extended until March 18, due to the Omicron variant risks. The new variant, first detected in South Africa, has shown evidence that it is resistant to vaccines, but there is not enough data yet about its infectiousness and lethality.

The US has never really beaten the virus, so the emergence of another variant increases the risk for tens of millions of unvaccinated, and now vaccinated, Americans. As of publication, 59.6 percent of people in the US are fully vaccinated, a comparably low rate compared to 'western' nations. For example, Spain has 79.6 percent of its population with two doses.

In terms of the US' economic outlook, Federal Reserve Chief Jay Powell told the Senate banking committee, "The recent rise in covid-19 cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant pose downside risks to employment and economic activity and increased uncertainty for inflation."

He said he believed that high inflation would persist until the middle of next year.

What are the current travel rules?

All inbound international travelers will be required to test within one day of departure for the United States starting Monday.

This new testing time frame will apply to everyone, "regardless of nationality or vaccination status," says the White House, which explained their plan on their website.

Documentation of having recovered from covid-19 in the past 90 days is also accepted.

There are also travel bans for eight countries in Southern Africa. President Biden announced, on November 26, that his administration would be implementing a travel ban from eight African countries in light of the news from the World Health Organization. The President described the move as "precautionary," saying it would take effect on November 29. The countries impacted by the ban are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe.

However, many more countries are reporting cases, including some reporting far more than those on the travel ban list. The US also reported its first Omicron case on December 1, making the ban seem a bit pointless considering the new variant is already in the country.