US enacts strict Covid testing requirement for entry

American citizens and non-citizens must test negative at least three days before boarding flight

(FILES) In this file photo the United check-in counter is seen in an unusually deserted airport terminal at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California on August 2, 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to requiring a test before they fly, travelers to the US will need to quarantine upon arrival, US President Joe Biden said January 21 as he announced a raft of measures aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19. / AFP / Daniel SLIM
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The Biden administration is strongly urging Americans against travelling abroad after new restrictions that require anyone entering the US to have tested negative for Covid-19 three days before travel, or have proof of prior recovery from the virus.

The new restrictions came into effect on Tuesday and the State Department stressed that it would provide little or no support for Americans who found themselves stranded abroad as a result of the new policy.

“Everyone needs to be prepared for the potential to be seriously disrupted in their trips,” said Ian Brownlee, the acting assistant secretary of state for consular affairs.

“If you cannot access a Covid-19 test, or if you test positive, you will end up overseas for much longer than you planned.

"If that happens, you will be responsible for covering your own lodging and medical costs during that time.

“As always, the Department of State is committed to helping US citizens overseas who find themselves in dire situations but that assistance is likely to be limited."

The travel restrictions apply to anyone aged 2 and older, regardless of whether they hold US citizenship.

President Joe Biden established the new policy last week as part of a series of executive action aimed at curbing the spread of the pandemic that has ravaged the US.

“Our main message to US citizens considering travel abroad remains the same: seriously reconsider going overseas right now,” Mr Brownlee said.

“If you’re overseas right now, it’s going to be harder to come home for a while, so be informed and be prepared.

"The State Department is committed to upholding the administration’s efforts to combat the pandemic through science-driven measures.”

The department will not provide Covid-19 tests for American citizens at its facilities abroad.

“If you, US citizens, are in fact truly destitute overseas, we have mechanisms for providing loans to those people,” Mr Brownlee said.

“The financial assistance we are able to provide is in the form of a loan, not a grant, and it is important to note that the US government does not and cannot provide medical services overseas to US citizens.”

The Biden administration also opted to extend travel bans on non-citizens travelling from Brazil, South Africa, Britain and much of Europe, as newer, more contagious strains of the virus continue to be discovered.