The US has made it mandatory for all incoming passengers, including those from India, to carry a negative COVID-19 test report or a proof of recovery from the contagion amidst rising number of cases of the new Omicron variant.
The new protocol comes into effect from December 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said.
“This amendment updates COVID-19 testing requirements for air passengers 2 years or older boarding a flight to the United States,” Indian government officials informed Indian-American community leaders on Saturday.
As per the new amended order, effectively for flights departing to the US from a foreign country at or after 12:01 AM EST (5:01 AM GMT or 10:31 AM IST) on December 6, 2021, passengers are required show a negative COVID-19 viral test result taken no more than 1 day before travel.
Documentation of a negative SARS-CoV-2 viral test result from specimen collected no more than 1 calendar day preceding the passenger's flight to the United States or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, before they board their flight.
“Air passengers will also be required to confirm in the form of an attestation that the information they present is true,” officials said.
The 1-day period is 1 day before the flight's departure. The order uses a 1-day time frame instead of 24 hours to provide more flexibility to the air passenger and aircraft operator.
By using a 1-day window, test acceptability does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test sample was taken, the circular explained.
For example, flight AI191/(BOM-EWR) is at 01:30 AM IST on a Tuesday, passengers could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the 1 calendar day prior Tuesday i.e., on Monday, it said.
On Saturday, New York detected three more cases of the omicron variant, bringing the total number of the state's cases to eight. Seven of the new cases have been found in New York City.
"The omicron variant is here, and as anticipated we are seeing the beginning of community spread," state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement.
Massachusetts and Washington announced their first cases on Saturday, a day after New Jersey, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Maryland reported their first cases.