Friday, January 21, 2022

Biden intends to extend masks on public transport until mid-March: reports

President Joe Biden is expected to extend federal masks for passengers on airplanes, trains and buses until mid-March due to the spread of COVID-19 and growing concerns over a new variant of the omicron coronavirus, according to reports.

For nearly a year, the US has required passengers on public transport, as well as passengers at airports and train stations, among other hubs, to wear masks to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The mandate expired on 18 January following its last renewal in August. It was originally enacted by the President shortly after taking office.

The president is expected to lay out a winter strategy to combat COVID-19 on Thursday as the world seeks to learn more about the omicron strain, which was first discovered in South Africa and Botswana. The variant quickly spread around the world and has already appeared in more than 20 countries.

The first case of omicron in the United States was confirmed Wednesday in California in a traveler who recently returned from South Africa. The strain has caused concern among researchers due to the large number of mutations, although there is no evidence yet that they allow the virus to be more transmissible or able to evade the currently available vaccines.

As part of the plan, Biden is expected to announce an extension of the mandate for the use of masks, as first reported by Reuters. The New York Times added that Biden is expected to tighten COVID-19 testing rules for anyone entering the United States from another country. Foreign travelers are expected to test negative for coronavirus within 24 hours of departure, rather than the three days currently in place.

All foreign travelers must already be fully vaccinated before entering the country. The new testing rules are expected to apply to both foreigners and US citizens.

The White House has already imposed travel restrictions on anyone entering the United States from eight South African countries, including South Africa. World Health Organization officials have condemned the move, saying the region is being punished for its transparency, although White House officials said the temporary ban would buy the US time to develop a strategy to fight the new wave of infections.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading national expert on infectious diseases, has urged Americans who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine to do so. He also said that those eligible for the booster should roll up their sleeves and get it.

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