WASHINGTON: The United States announced yesterday (September 20) that it will lift COVID travel bans for all air passengers in November if they are fully vaccinated and undergo contact tracing and testing.
Currently, only US citizens, residents, and foreigners with special visas are permitted to enter the United States from most European countries. Photo: AFP
Jeffrey Zients, coronavirus response coordinator for President Joe Biden, told reporters the new “cohesive approach” will take effect “in early November.”
The easing of travel restrictions, imposed 18 months ago by Donald Trump during the first outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, marks a significant change by Biden and responds to a major demand from European allies in an era of relations diplomatic tense.
Many safeguards will remain in place to suppress the spread of the virus, which has already killed more than 670,000 Americans and resurfaced after what many hoped was a lasting decline earlier this year.
âMore importantly, foreign nationals traveling to the United States will need to be fully immunized,â Zients said.
It was not immediately clear whether the new rule only applied to vaccines approved by the United States or whether other brands, such as those produced in China or Russia, would also qualify. Zients said this would be determined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Restrictions on the movement of vehicles from Canada and Mexico will remain in place. âWe have no updates on land border policies,â Zients said.
Zients said passengers will need to show they have been fully vaccinated before boarding planes bound for the United States, as well as provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days.
Americans who are not fully vaccinated will still be able to enter, but only if they test negative within one day of travel.
Masks will be required on flights to the United States, and airlines will provide contact tracing information to U.S. health officials.
âThis new international travel system follows science to ensure the safety of Americans’ international air travel,â Zients said.
Science or politics?
The announcement was quickly greeted by the Airlines For Europe business group, which said that “this move will give a much needed boost to transatlantic traffic and tourism and bring families and friends together.”
But while it was widely expected that Biden would reopen the borders of the European Union and Britain, the announcement covers the world.
âThis applies to all international travel,â Zients said.
Currently, only US citizens, residents, and foreigners with special visas are permitted to enter the United States from most European countries.
The restriction deeply annoyed European and British authorities. Yesterday, the European Union recommended member states reimpose restrictions on U.S. travelers who were previously free to enter if vaccinated.
Biden’s move comes on the eve of his speech at the United Nations Annual General Assembly in New York, where the pandemic is expected to make headlines.
It also comes as Washington and Paris bitterly argue over Australia’s sudden announcement that it will buy US-built nuclear submarines as part of a new defense alliance, abandoning a previous French contract. for submarines with conventional propulsion.
France recalled its ambassador from Washington and accused the Biden administration of stabbing him in the back.
However, US officials have denied that the White House’s travel decision was an attempt to smooth disheveled French feathers.
âIt’s really science driven,â a State Department official said.