The White House announced this week that the US will begin to ease travel restrictions for all fully vaccinated foreign visitors.
The new requirements will make all foreign visitors arriving in the US show proof of full vaccination. Jeff Zients, White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said the new rules will take effect in November to give agencies and airlines enough time to prepare for the influx of travel that will likely come from these new standards.
In addition to requiring proof of full vaccination, the White House will also be taking steps to further mitigate the spread of the virus. Testing, contact tracing, and masking efforts will all be more strictly enforced, especially in places of travel. Fully vaccinated abroad citizens will be required to take a pre-flight Covid-19 test within three days of their flight and show proof of a negative result.
Travelers will also need to do a PCR or rapid test within a week of arrival. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also require all airlines to collect information from US-bound travelers for contact tracing purposes; including phone numbers, email addresses, and places of residence.
“Airlines will be required to keep contact tracing information for 30 days to follow up with inbound travelers and those around them if someone has potentially been exposed to Covid-19. This new requirement will be used more broadly going forward to help protect against any future public health threats.”
The travel industry has already reacted positively to these new developments, as they’ve been working with the federal government to lift restrictions impacting international travelers. Airlines, hotels, and hospitality groups have all expressed their support for letting vaccinated tourists from abroad back into the US.
Zients added that “the administration is not taking any measures off the table for potential vaccine mandates for Americans traveling domestically. There are currently no updates to existing rules on land border crossings with Canada and Mexico.”
US travel bans were first imposed in January 2020 when the pandemic first started making headlines. Initially, this move helped prevent the virus from entering the US, but as we now know, it didn’t really make a difference. Biden has continued to maintain strict travel bans for nonessential travel, which led to months of debate between the US and European Union over allowing residents to travel between the two.
“Travel restrictions of people wishing to enter the United States had devolved into a major transatlantic rift. European leaders, frustrated at the apparent lack of progress, began taking their gripes public, and claimed the rules were damaging relations between Europe and the United States.”
Europe opened its borders for vaccinated Americans back in June, but recently reversed that decision to make it so US travelers also had to endure quarantine and testing requirements to visit certain countries. This furthered tensions between the US and EU, ultimately leading to the easing of the border restrictions.
The White House Covid-19 response team and National Security Council are made up of individuals from the CDC, Departments of State, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Transportation. American officials have partnered with representatives from the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, and Mexico recently to discuss reopening international borders.
Smaller sub-groups in these meetings discussed the obvious risks of reopening prematurely, such as variants, maintaining surveillance on all travelers, and a decline in vaccination efforts. Overall, the US is still in a weird grey area when it comes to our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Vaccination rates are different all around the world, but the US is one of the only countries where our rate tends to decline due to individual’s personal choice not to get the vaccine, as opposed to the government not being able to supply it to their citizens, as many other nations are experiencing. Unvaccinated individuals lead to the development of variants, as well as increased hospitalization rates among those without their inoculations.
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