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Biden administration unveils new Covid vaccine, testing requirements for travel into U.S.

Unvaccinated U.S. citizens and long-term residents will have to present a negative Covid test taken a day before re-entering the country.
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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday released updated guidelines for traveling into the United States, including stricter requirements on U.S. citizens who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 as well as some exceptions for foreign travelers.

Beginning Nov. 8, unvaccinated U.S. citizens and long-term residents will have to present a negative Covid test taken a day before re-entering the country, and unvaccinated foreign nationals will be able to enter only in limited circumstances, an administration official said Monday. Fully vaccinated Americans will have to be tested three days before travel.

For foreign nationals, the administration announced in September it will require all visitors to be fully vaccinated before entering the country, but on Monday outlined exemptions to that requirement. People coming from countries with vaccination rates under 10 percent, for example, will also have to provide a compelling reason for why they are traveling to the U.S., a senior administration official said.

Other exemptions include visitors under age 18 since children aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine yet in many countries, those with certain medical conditions, clinical trial participants and those traveling on short notice, the official said.

Previously, all travelers, including U.S. citizens, were required to produce a negative viral test result within three days of travel to the United States regardless of their vaccination status. Travelers from 33 countries were barred from entering the U.S. even if they were fully vaccinated.

Proof of vaccination and testing will be required before boarding the plane and it will be up to the airlines to enforce the measures, including confirming that the record was issued by an official source and meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's definition for fully vaccinated.

The official said the U.S. will accept any of the vaccines approved by the World Health Organization even if they are not cleared in the U.S., including Russian and Chinese vaccines — which have limited data on their effectiveness against the Delta variant.

To help with CDC contact tracing, airlines flying into the U.S. will be required to keep on hand contact information to be able to follow up with air travelers if they are potentially infected.