The U.S. State Department on late Thursday warned Americans who are traveling outside the country to “make contingency plans” amid restrictions associated with rising COVID-19 cases worldwide.
“U.S. citizens who do choose to travel internationally should make contingency plans, as they may have to remain in a foreign country longer than originally planned, which will be at their own expense,” the State Department said in a statement.
The agency added that anyone aged 2 and older coming back into the United States would need to show proof they’ve recovered from COVID-19, the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, or a negative COVID-19 test that was conducted within 24 hours when they are slated to return. That applies to American citizens and lawful permanent residents—regardless of vaccination status.
“The Department recommends international travel insurance with coverage for COVID-related trip cancellation and medical benefits,” the State Department also said.
The agency also noted that some countries have imposed travel restrictions, including mandatory quarantines, mandatory testing requirements, proof of COVID-19 vaccinations, closed borders, and other rules.
“Some countries have also imposed travel restrictions requiring mandatory quarantine for those testing positive on departure, which could delay a traveler’s ability to travel to another country,” the alert said. “Foreign governments in any country may implement restrictions with little notice.”
American citizens traveling abroad should also contact their airline about specific testing requirements or restrictions, the agency said.
Federal health officials and authorities in other countries have said the Omicron variant—first discovered in southern Africa last month—is highly transmissible and appears to be driving a record spike in COVID-19 cases in many U.S. states. However, authorities, citing preliminary data, have said that the new strain appears to present milder symptoms and fewer hospitalizations.
“We know now, incontrovertibly, that this is a highly, highly transmissible virus. We know that from the numbers we’re seeing,” Biden administration COVID-19 advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a briefing on Wednesday before adding that data suggests there is “a lesser severity of Omicron versus Delta.”
Fauci and officials, including the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), appear to be pivoting their messaging on the Omicron variant, saying that it necessitates fewer domestic restrictions. The CDC, for example, earlier this week said it reduced the COVID-19 isolation time to five days, although some states said they won’t adhere to the recommendation yet.
The agency also reduced the time healthcare workers would need to come back to work if they tested positive for the virus. But on Thursday, the CDC issued a bulletin saying it recommends that Americans should not travel on cruise ships for the time being and cited a recent spike in COVID-19 cases on cruise liners.