New travel restrictions take effect as Omicron spreads

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 10:28 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2021 at 11:20 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - International travel restrictions kicked in Monday, with a growing number of Americans testing positive for the omicron COVID variant.

Anyone flying into the U.S. from a foreign country must now show proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 24 hours before takeoff.

“It’s just really challenging. So much so that I don’t actually know if we’re going to be able to do it,” Bruce Montgomery said.

Public health experts are defending the move as the concerning new strain spreads across at least 17 states.

As of Monday night, no cases of omicron have been confirmed in South Carolina, but local travel officials are keeping a close eye on the strain, adding they have learned from their past experiences when dealing with this virus.

“We treated this new variant similar to what we learned from the delta variant,” Kim Crafton with Columbia Metropolitan Airport said. “It’s a lot of waiting and seeing and trying to see what the severity will be.”

Another change travelers need to be aware of is that the federal transportation-wide mask mandate that was set to expire has been extended by two months.

“It was January 18th, now it’s March 18th of 2022,” Crafton said.

Many travelers say the new changes are just something they will have to deal with.

“It doesn’t matter to me, honestly, I just I’m like, alright, cool. If that’s what you need me to do, I’ll do it. I’ll do what I need to do to travel,” one traveler said.

At Columbia Metropolitan Airport officials say things have been smooth so far.

“Right now we are seeing that our travelers are still traveling and packing our airport,” Crafton said.

With the busy holiday travel season underway, the Biden administration says right now there are no plans for new restrictions on domestic travel.

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