US to allow COVID-19 vaccinated international travelers into their country

Reuters – The United States will reopen air travelers from China, India, Britain and many other European countries fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in November, the White House said Monday, lifting the strict pandemic-related travel restrictions imposed from the start. , are reversed early last year.

The decision, announced by Jeff Ziess, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, marked an abrupt reversal for President Joe Biden’s administration, which last week said it was not the right time to lift any restrictions. The restrictions had prevented tens of thousands of foreigners from flying to the United States to see relatives and cut back on business travel.

The curbs on non-US citizens were first imposed on air travelers from China by then in January 2020.President Donald Trump and then expanded to other countries in the following months, with no clear statistics on how and when they should be lifted.

The United States will admit fully vaccinated air travelers from the 26 so-called Schengen countries in Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Greece, as well as Great Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. Existing policies had excluded non-US citizens who had been to those countries within 14 days.

Ziens did not give a precise start date other than ‘beginning of November’.

The new policy was announced before the United States hosted leaders from Britain, India, Japan and Australia at the White House this week, and Biden made his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the announcement “a fantastic boost to business and commerce, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited.”

Americans traveling from abroad who have not been vaccinated must be able to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel and must provide proof that they have purchased a viral test that has been taken after arriving in the United States. States must be taken.

Countries have imposed numerous air travel restrictions and bans during the pandemic to slow the spread of COVID-19. The policy devastated international travel and tourism and shocked the airline industry, which implemented a series of cuts to services and employee leave.

Airlines for America, an industrial trade group, said international air traffic had fallen 43% from pre-pandemic levels by the end of August.

Sean Doyle, CEO and chairman of British Airways, said the news “marks a historic moment and one that will give a huge boost to Global Britain as it emerges from this pandemic.”

Shares in British Airways parent IAG rose 11%.

US Ambassador to Germany Emily Haber welcomed the “great news” on Twitter, adding: “Hugely important to foster people-to-people contacts and transatlantic affairs.”

WHICH VACCINES? The White House said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will decide which vaccines are eligible, including whether those not approved by US regulators will be acceptable. Foreigners must be able to present a vaccination certificate before departure and do not have to quarantine on arrival.

There will be some exceptions to vaccine policy, officials said, including for children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. The new rules do not yet apply to travelers crossing the land borders with Mexico and Canada.

Some Europeans and others on the Restricted Countries List have been granted permission to travel to the United States, including students, journalists and others who have been authorized by the State Department.

Zien said the United States will re-impose restrictions banning non-essential travel until October 21.

Critics have said travel restrictions no longer make sense as some countries with high COVID-19 rates are not on the restricted list, while some countries on the list have the pandemic under control.

The American travel association Trade Group previously estimated that the restrictions, if extended until the end of the year, would cost the US economy $325 billion in total losses and 1.1 million jobs.

Airlines have lobbied the White House heavily to lift the restrictions, but failed to lift them in time for the summer travel season. The White House said in July it was concerned about the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant and an increasing number of US COVID-19 cases.

Zients said on September 15 that given the rise of the Delta variant, it was not the right time to lift travel restrictions. Asked on Monday what has changed since then, Zients mentioned rising global vaccination rates, adding, “The new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Zients said the new system will include collecting contact tracing information from passengers traveling to the United States so that the CDC can contact travelers who have been exposed to COVID-19.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, China and the United States have been sparring over air services. In addition, Biden added new travel restrictions to India in April. Biden also backtracked in January on Trump’s plans to lift restrictions on European countries.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Andrea Shalal; additional reporting by Sarah Young Editing by Franklin Paul, Will Dunham and Heather Timmons)

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