BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — President Joe Biden’s new COVID-19 security protocols for international travel officially went into effect Monday.
That means anyone entering the United States must provide proof of a negative test within one day of their flight, regardless of vaccination status. The changes were announced last week after the ommicron variant was discovered in the United States.
Indiana University said the updated regulations will affect international students for the holidays. The university’s International Services Office said fewer international students are planning to go home because there are too many travel uncertainties.
John Wilkerson, the office’s interim vice president, said that at this point in the coronavirus pandemic, some students have not seen their families for nearly two years. “We have seen and experienced students stranded in the United States or abroad.”
Wilkerson said many decided not to leave the country for the winter break, in part because of the uncertainties surrounding the omicron variant, and it’s also exactly what international students have become accustomed to.
“That is really the very specific challenge that international students face. It’s not that easy for students who return to Singapore for the holidays and can enter Singapore now, but what if they can’t in two weeks? So it’s not quite the same as the college student trying to make the same trip to San Diego to go home for the vacation,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson said that in some ways, during the pandemic, international students had to pay more attention to changing protocols than other students.
“They have come to rely on the information we put out, that the university shares with them, in terms of how best to protect themselves and to make sure they are aware of the challenges they may face. and whether they face those challenges, how best to use IU as a tool to best help them overcome them,” Wilkerson said.
According to the Indiana University website, more than 7,200 international students from 164 countries are enrolled at the university. Wilkerson said how many will stay over the winter break, but it is unknown if IU’s COVID response team will continue to ramp up resources to prepare.
“The literal social distancing that has happened has exacerbated a lot of feelings of anxiety and loneliness and, you know, everything we’ve all felt to some degree. But imagine having those experiences, those feelings, those tensions, feeling those fears and being driven from your loved ones for years,” Wilkerson said.
An IU spokesperson tells News 8 that the school is encouraging booster shots and will host a clinic for students in the coming days. So far, however, there are no plans to demand boosters in college.