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President Joe Biden has unveiled stricter COVID-19 travel rules as the US confirmed a handful of cases of the Omicron variant from coast to coast. Mr Biden said his plan "doesn't include shutdowns or lockdowns" and does not expand vaccine mandates. Cases have been detected in California, Colorado, Minnesota, New York and in Hawaii, where authorities say that person had no recent travel history. State health officials have reported only mild symptoms in these cases.

Under the details unveiled on Thursday, all international passengers will have to be tested for the virus in 24 hours before they leave for the US, regardless of their vaccination status. Mask requirements on planes, trains and buses will be extended until March.

The US Government will seek to



make available millions of free at-home tests through private insurance companies for those who have coverage and through health centres and rural clinics for those who do not.

The administration's plan for the winter months also consists of steps to encourage all adults to get their booster vaccines, including through a public education campaign and more targeted outreach. Hundreds of family vaccination clinics will be set up across the country in an attempt to increase vaccination rates among children and teenagers.

The US and several other countries have banned travel from eight southern African countries. Health experts have said travel restrictions will buy them time to study the new variant.




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