Among other new rules on travel, the new US President announced a requirement for a 10-day quarantine, for all arrivals into the country. In addition to the airlines, it seems that the new rule will also apply to land and sea arrivals.
The news aren’t surprising, as the then-President-Elect had made his intentions on the pandemic very public. Today we get a first indication on how things will evolve. However, many of the details are still a bit unclear. But we know that a form of quarantine will be a requirement for all arrivals in the US.
This new development will not change the status quo for everyone in the US, in the same way. Until now, most US states had their own rules with regard to quarantines. The new rules make quarantines a Federal requirement. But even in the areas where such rules already existed, the change probably means more clarity and less ambiguity.
In Europe, we are already familiar with a constantly moving labyrinth of rules and requirements, from country to country. The United States had similar issues between States – sometimes even between Counties in a single State. The new US quarantine rules will hopefully put an end to this. However, one glaring problem remains: enforcement.
The Challenges Of A US Quarantine
As we have seen in the UK, enforcing such rules isn’t always easy. It is not yet clear how the US will ensure that people stick to their quarantines. Self-isolation seems like the most likely strategy. However, the effectiveness of this measure, and its ease of policing, is questionable. But perhaps the US will be able to devote more resources on this kind of policing, by area, than the UK.
We have also seen efforts from countries to move away from quarantines, and onto testing. Airlines and the ICAO have already been working on digital initiatives. The hope is that they will lead to vaccination passports, but airlines already use them for Covid-19 testing information. In its announcement, the US government promises to consult with foreign governments on quarantine and testing rules.
There are some suggestions that quarantines will be a kind of ‘baseline’ requirement, for US travel. At a later date, testing protocols, for arrivals from specific countries, could permit the replacement of these quarantines. This would depend on the situation on the ground, in these countries. So, given the present flare-ups and lockdowns in Europe and elsewhere, perhaps this will take more time.
More Changes And Announcements
Quarantines are far from the only change in the US. Masks are now becoming a federal requirement, for all forms of inter-state travel. Again, individual States are currently responsible for rules within them, and the federal government for rules/laws between States. But federal requirements are often a guide for regulations at the State level.
Many will welcome the new mask rule. Until now, airlines enforced masks on their own authority. The previous lack of a federal requirement was something anti-maskers often quoted as an argument against their use. So, these new changes remove any ambiguity, with regard to the authority of the airline. The mask rule will also apply on trains and buses.
The new US President also focused on the thing we all hope will make quarantines redundant: vaccines. He promised 100 million doses in the first 100 days, a target that some criticized as too low. Or too easy, given existing work on the matter. Hopefully, he can over-deliver on this promise. Until then, we will have to see how new US rules on quarantines and testing, could (hopefully) restart travel.