<p>Travellers wear masks at Denver airport </p>

Travellers wear masks at Denver airport

Biden extends transport mask mandate until March

Current restrictions were due to end in January

Helen Coffey
Thursday 02 December 2021 11:09

The US is extending its mask mandate on public transport until mid-March in 2022.

The White House has confirmed the move, which will see the current rules extended until 18 March.

The measures requiring all passengers, unless medically exempt, to wear a mask on transport including trains, planes, buses, cruise ships and other forms of transportation, plus at public transport hubs, were originally due to expire on 18 January 2022.

But the latest coronavirus variant of concern, omicron, has seen countries around the world re-tighten domestic and travel restrictions.

The TSA first introduced the requirement to wear a mask on public transport in February 2021. The directive has since been extended several times, once from May to September, then from September to January.

“The Administration will continue to require masking during international or other public travel – as well as in transportation hubs such as airports or indoor bus terminals – through March 18 as we continue to battle COVID-19 this winter,” reads an official statement from the White House.

Fines for noncompliance will be doubled, with a minimum fine of $500 and fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.

The simple public health measure has been linked to a spike in incidents of disruptive and violent passengers on flights in the States.

Covid-related rules on planes saw a surge in unruly passenger incidents last year, and the trend has continued into 2021, with the FAA reporting in July that roughly 75 per cent of incidents between January and July were mask-related.

The US is also set to tighten testing requirements for travellers entering the country in a bid to stem the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant.

International arrivals will now have to take a Covid test within 24 hours of their departure to the US, regardless of vaccination status, as opposed to the previous 72-hour time allowance.

The new restrictions will be introduced “early next week”, according to an official statement from the White House.

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