TAMPA (WFLA) — As millions take to the skies this holiday season, the federal government issued new rules to limit the spread of COVID-19 and the new omicron variant.
All international travelers coming into the U.S. will now have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of departure. This is regardless of your vaccination status and nationality.
This replaces a similar three-day requirement that was in effect since early November.
President Joe Biden said this tighter testing timetable allows an added degree of protection as scientists continue to study this variant.
The White House said there is still no vaccine mandate or testing requirement for those flying domestically, but it is keeping its options open.
“I would say that nothing is off the table including domestic travel,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “We do have some protections in place already including the requirement of mask wearing.”
Thomas Habel and his wife, Linda, flew out of Tampa International Airport Monday morning and were headed to Cancun, Mexico. The Habels said their resort arranged a test the day before their flight back home to comply with the new rule.
“It is what it is. We’re just abiding by it. Will make sure we do what we have to do when we get to Cancun and when we come back,” Habel said.
This move comes after the White House announced a travel ban from South Africa and seven other African nations by non U.S. citizens because of the omicron variant.
“We both had both our shots and we had booster shots and flu shots,” Habel said. “We’re good to go. We’re very safe, we’re good, we’re not worried about anything.”
The Transportation Security Administration has extended the requirement to wear a mask on planes, trains, subways and other public transportation hubs including airports and bus terminals through the winter. Fines, which were doubled earlier this year, will remain in a range of $500 to $3,000.
The mask requirement has sparked confrontations and occasional fights on planes. Airlines have reported more than 5,000 incidents of unruly passengers to federal authorities since the start of the year, with about three-fourths of the events involving passengers who refuse to wear a mask.