The United States will lift the ban on international travel and will again accept tourists from all countries
U.S. to lift travel ban for vaccinated international travelers from early November, reports USA Today.
On September 20, the United States announced a new international air travel system, opening travel for all vaccinated foreign nationals in early November, including those currently under a U.S. travel ban.
“This vaccination requirement leverages the best tool in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of the virus,” said Jeff Zientes, White House COVID-19 Coordinator. "Vaccines continue to prove highly effective, including against the delta variant, and the new system allows us to implement stringent protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19."
Travelers will need to show proof of full vaccination before boarding aircraft bound for the United States. The COVID-19 test will also continue to be required for three days prior to departure, and evidence of negative results must be presented.
The new policy also introduces stricter testing requirements for unvaccinated U.S. travelers who will need to be tested one day prior to departure and again after arrival.
Zientes said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release a list of accepted vaccinations before the new policy goes into effect, as well as a contact tracing policy that requires airlines to collect information such as phone numbers and email addresses of all travelers heading to USA.
“This will allow the CDC, as well as state and local health officials, to keep an eye on arriving travelers and the people around them, as someone has potentially been exposed to COVID-19 or other pathogens,” Zientes said. "(It) will also strengthen our public health surveillance system against any future public health threats."
Vaccinated Americans still comply with the CDC's January requirement to submit a negative result for COVID-19 no more than three days before an international flight to the United States.
The US ban on non-essential travel has been in effect since early 2020, starting in China and extending to visitors from the UK, Ireland, 29 regions of the European Schengen Region, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India.
European Union Ambassador to the United States, Stavros Lambrinidis, hinted at the decision on Twitter earlier Monday before sharing the news: “The travel ban has been lifted! Vaccinated and pre-flight test Europeans will be able to travel to the United States again from November, as will vaccinated Americans. Today it is allowed to travel to the EU. "
The United States was one of the slowest countries to lift travel restrictions. Although Canada reopened its land borders to U.S. travelers in early August, the U.S. has yet to announce when it will ease its land border restrictions. And even as European countries eased travel restrictions for U.S. travelers in early summer, the U.S. travel ban continued.
In mid-July, as the country was under increasing pressure from European capitals and tourism industry leaders to lift the travel ban, President Joe Biden said his response team was studying travel restrictions and suggested changes would be announced in the coming days. Later that month, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that there were "ongoing working groups" focused on how to resume international travel to the United States.
But when the number of COVID-19 cases began to rise again, the administration changed its mind and announced that travel restrictions would remain in place.
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“Given where we are today… with the deltoid option, we will maintain the existing travel restrictions for the time being for several reasons,” Psaki said at a press briefing in late July.
According to the USA TODAY analysis, the US has already reported more COVID-19 deaths in September than in all of August, with the current death toll averaging nearly 2000 per day.
In recent months, countries banned from travel to the United States, including Italy, France, Spain and Sweden, have tightened entry requirements for U.S. travelers due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Quarantine mandates, vaccine requirements, and outright bans are some of the restrictions international travelers to the United States now face.
Critics and health experts have also questioned the effectiveness of travel bans, especially after the U.S. fourth outbreak of COVID-19.
When COVID-19 cases are high, “travel bans really look silly,” said Susan Hassig, an epidemiologist at Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. "We already have more than enough virus circulating."
Hassig said the new travel policy "makes a lot of sense" and is "a significant and relevant step forward," but could be strengthened by a quarantine mandate.
“I would love to see a three-day quarantine on arrival, whether you are returning, American or foreign ... especially with the delta, which is still very active,” she said. Hassig noted that travelers could become infected the day before the trip, which may be too early to show up for a test after arrival.
The tourist industry, other countries are “delighted” with the announcement.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter Monday that he was "pleased" to hear that the travel ban would be lifted for vaccinated UK residents and called the new travel policy "a fantastic incentive for business and commerce."
Roger Doe, President and CEO of the United States Travel Association, said the new policy should help revitalize the American economy.
“This is an important turning point in the fight against the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” Dow said in a statement Monday.
The Flight Attendant Association-CWA, which represents nearly 50 flight attendants from 000 airlines, said the new policy "only enhances health and safety" in air travel.
“We thank the Biden administration for announcing plans to reunite families and open travel with strict procedures to ensure transport does not contribute to the spread of the virus,” AFA President Sarah Nelson said in a statement Monday. "International travel is essential to the stability of our jobs and the full recovery of the US aviation industry, but recovery is only possible if we focus on safety and health first."
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