US to ease restrictions on international travelers vaccinated in November

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WASHINGTON, Sept.20 (Reuters) – The United States will reopen in November for air travelers from 33 countries, including China, India, Brazil and most European countries, fully vaccinated against COVID-19, announced Monday the White House, easing severe pandemic-related travel restrictions imposed from early last year.

The move, announced by White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, marked a sharp change for the administration of President Joe Biden, who said last week it was not the right time to lift restrictions amid rising COVID-19 cases.

The United States had fallen behind many other countries in lifting these restrictions, and allies, including Britain and Germany, have welcomed the move. US restrictions have banned travelers from most countries around the world, including tens of thousands of foreign nationals with relatives or business ties to the United States.

Restrictions on non-U.S. Citizens were first imposed on air travelers from China in January 2020 by then-President Donald Trump, then extended to dozens of other countries, without any clear action to know how and when to lift them.

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, the ‘Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. Current policy prohibits non-US citizens who were in these countries within 14 days.

Zients did not give a specific start date beyond saying “early November”.

Separately on Monday, the United States extended its pandemic-related restrictions to land borders with Canada and Mexico that ban non-essential travel such as tourism until October 21, while giving no indication whether it would apply. the rules on vaccines at these borders.

The United States has allowed foreign air travelers from more than 150 countries throughout the pandemic. Its action on Monday means that the new COVID-19 vaccine requirements will now apply to almost all foreign nationals traveling to the United States – including those not subject to the previous restrictions.

Critics had said travel restrictions in the United States no longer made sense as some countries with high rates of COVID-19 were not on the restricted list while some countries on the list have the pandemic no longer under control. .

Americans traveling from abroad who are not vaccinated will face stricter rules than vaccinated citizens, including the need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel and proof of purchase of a viral test to be performed after arrival.

Air travel restrictions and bans have been imposed by many countries in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, devastating international travel and tourism and shaking up the airline industry.

Passengers walk past artwork between terminals at IAH George Bush Intercontinental Airport amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Houston, Texas, United States, July 21, 2020. REUTERS / Adrees Latif

The United States Chamber of Commerce group of companies welcomed the United States’ announcement, saying that “allowing vaccinated foreign nationals to travel freely to the United States will help foster a strong and sustainable recovery for the United States. American economy ”. Airlines for America, an industry trade group, said that until the end of August, international air travel was down 43% from pre-pandemic levels.

Shares of US airlines were little changed while some European carriers rose. British Airways parent company IAG SA (ICAG.L) grew by around 11%, while Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) and Deutsche Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) AG both increased by around 5%. %.

British Airways CEO and Chairman Sean Doyle said the news “marks a historic moment and will give global Britain a huge boost as it emerges from this pandemic.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the announcement “a fantastic stimulus for business and commerce, and it is great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can come together again”. US Ambassador to Germany Emily Haber welcomed the announcement, writing on Twitter: “It is extremely important to promote people-to-people contact and transatlantic affairs.”

Biden, who is giving his first address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, is hosting leaders from Britain, India, Japan and Australia this week.

WHICH VACCINES? The White House said federal health officials will decide which vaccines are eligible, including whether those not approved by U.S. regulators will be acceptable. Foreign nationals will be required to show proof of vaccination prior to travel and will not be required to self-quarantine upon arrival.

Exceptions to the immunization policy include children who are not yet eligible for vaccines. Reuters reported on August 5 that the White House was developing entry requirements for vaccines that could cover nearly all foreign air visitors.

The US Travel Association business group previously estimated that the US restrictions, if continued through the end of the year, would cost the US economy $ 325 billion in total losses and 1.1 million jobs.

Airlines have lobbied heavily on the White House to lift the restrictions, but have failed to lift them in time for the summer travel season.

Trump in January issued an order to lift restrictions on 27 European countries, but it was blocked by Biden before going into effect. Biden also added India and South Africa to the shortlist.

Zients said on September 15 that given the rise of the Delta variant, it was not a good time to lift travel restrictions. Asked on Monday what has changed since then, Zients cited the increase in global vaccinations, adding, “The new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “

Zients said the new system will include the collection of contact tracing data from passengers traveling to the United States to enable the CDC to contact travelers exposed to COVID-19.

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

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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