US President Joe Biden signed a new executive order on Thursday requiring anybody flying to the US to be tested for the coronavirus before flying, and to subsequently quarantine on arrival.
It was part of 10 executive orders as well new directives and memos on the coronavirus signed by Biden as he starts his administration's campaign against the pandemic.
"In addition to wearing masks, everyone flying to the United States from another country will need to test before they get on that plane, before they depart, and quarantine when they arrive in America," said Biden.
Biden also outlined plans to ramp up vaccinations and testing, reopen schools and businesses and increase the use of masks.
"We didn't get into this mess overnight, and it will take months to turn this around," Biden warned. "Despite the best intentions we're going to face setbacks." But he declared: "To a nation waiting for action, let me be clear on this point: Help is on the way."
What are the new directives?
- Testing and mandatory quarantine for all people flying to the country
- Mandating the wearing of masks on public transport, interstate transport and at travel hubs
- Starting a program to distribute COVID-19 vaccines through pharmacies
- Invoking the Defense Production Act to ramp up supplies of vaccines and protective equipment
- Building public vaccination centers through the Federal Emergency Management Agency
- Administering 100 million shots in Biden's first 100 days in office
- Developing guidance on safely reopening schools, colleges and childcare centers
- Improving data collection on the pandemic and schools
- Mandating stronger safety rights for workers
- Creating a new organization to oversee increased testing
- Directing resources to hard-hit minority communities
Infections may be plateauing
Speaking after Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top country's top infectious disease expert, said that based on recent seven-day averages, new infections may be about to hit a plateau.
He also said that current vaccines are probably effective against recent virus mutations, and if required they can be modified. He said the South African variant was concerning, but did not appear to have spread to the United States yet.
"Bottom line: we're paying very close attention to it for our alternative plans if we have to ever modify the vaccine," he said. "But right now, from the reports we have ... it appears that the vaccines will still be effective against them."
More than 400,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States.
aw/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)