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International travelers scramble as new COVID-19 testing rules take effect Monday

New federal guidelines require all airline travelers must test negative for COVID-19 one day before arriving to the U.S. and not 72 hours like before.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Just when San Diegans finally thought it was okay to resume travel for the holidays in the pandemic, the omicron variant has created federal restrictions for traveling. 

Travel agents say for all those planning to go anywhere internationally, be on alert, especially when it comes to COVID testing.

"People have to think twice, and they are thinking twice,” said Travel Agent, Bobbie Findlay of Bobbie's Travel & Tours.

Findlay says she's seen an uptick in trip cancellations due to the omicron variant.

"Now, people are questioning 'do I want to go now? And do I need to go now?'”

With positive COVID cases of the omicron variant popping up in multiple U.S. states in addition to dozens of countries, President Joe Biden issued travel bans for arrivals from 8 southern African countries. 

President Biden also required starting December 6, that all air travelers to the U.S. are required to test negative for COVID-19 for 24 hours before arriving.

But what if you test positive for COVID and the rest of your group tests negative?

"Guess what? Your family is going to say goodbye to you, because they will have an opportunity to go ahead of you, and you will unfortunately not be able to get on the plane,” Findlay said.

Bobbie says some hotels provide COVID-19 testing, but many travelers are buying their own rapid tests to take with them at their own expense. 

And if you are left behind in a foreign country, where do you stay?

"You're at the mercy of whatever you can find, you will have to go back to your hotel, but you've already checked out, are they booked?” Findlay said.

Findlay says now more than ever is the best time to purchase travel insurance and not just any kind of insurance.

"You need to get the kind of travel insurance that is ‘cancel for any reason' and not just for sickness," Findlay said.

The 24-hour COVID test policy has some San Diego travelers annoyed that rules have changed from 72 hours for international arrivals to 24. 

The federal mask mandate on planes and public transportation also remains in effect until March 18.

“I think to save lives and slow the spread of the new variant it's likely necessary seems like a reasonable measure,” said traveler Megan Donovan.

Bobbie Findlay just returned from a 3-day Princess cruise to Ensenada, where tests were available aboard the ship.

"On the return, the cruise line will test you, knowing the rules and regulations, for entering back into the United States,” Findlay said.

WATCH RELATED: Biden details winter plan for combating COVID-19, including plans for international travel (December 2021)

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