International travel requirements amid pandemic


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on travel, and if you plan to vacation outside the country, there are some things you’ll need to do before you get on the plane.

Several countries require some form of COVID test. Some require PCR or NAT, while others will accept an antigen (rapid) test.

“Every day we have at least 20 people out of the country. Which means every day we have at least 20 people testing to go out of the country,” travel agent with Vacations to Remember, Julie Lanham said.

And a large percentage of countries are now requiring travelers to be vaccinated.

“Some require vaccinations only, and then you don’t have to test at all. Some are saying if you’re vaccinated you don’t have to test. It’s a vaccination in lieu of a test or vice versa, and some are requiring both,” Lanham said.

Through your airline, you can find out what testing is required by your destination. Turnaround time for PCR tests vary based on lab. Augusta University Health uses its own lab and results are returned within 24-48 hours. The Department of Public Health also has its own lab and returns results within 72 hours.

Other medical centers outsource to other labs, like MedNow, where test are sent off to LabCorp and returned within 48-96 hours.

“I tell our clients where we go and where our other clients go and where we’ve gotten the fastest turnaround. But sometimes it changes. One week one lab might be doing it very quickly and another one has kind of been slow,” Lanham said.

Destinations have a window of time that your pre-test must take place. Lanham says for many countries, you must be tested within 72 hours of boarding your flight, which means you need to be sure you can get the results in time.

“To date, we haven’t had anybody not be able to get their test results in time,” Lanham said. “Couple of close calls, but for the most part everybody has had them by midnight the night before they travel.”

She says many countries are moving toward requiring foreign travelers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We’re kind of getting updates daily about what countries are requiring vaccinations,” Lanham said. “It seems like when they first started, it’s now snowballing. So it’s getting to the point where a big percentage of countries are requiring vaccinations.”

Mexico and the Dominican Republic are the only two travel destinations that do not require testing or vaccination.

To reenter the US, you will need a negative antigen test within 72 hours of boarding.

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