Published on : Tuesday, September 21, 2021
The U.S. has decided to reopen to fully-vaccinated air travelers from 33 countries including China, India, Brazil and most of Europe, starting November. The announcement was officially made by the White House as part of their efforts in easing stringent pandemic-related restrictions.
The United States has long maintained such restrictions as compared to many other countries and hence the new move has been welcomed by most allies. The U.S. restrictions have barred entry of travelers from most of the world including tens of thousands of foreign nationals with relatives or business links in the United States.
The country will also admit fully vaccinated air travelers from the 26 Schengen countries in Europe including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Greece, as well as Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. The unprecedented U.S. restrictions have barred non-U.S. citizens who were in those countries within the past 14 days.
Restrictions on non-U.S. citizens were first imposed on air travelers from China in January 2020 by former President Donald Trump and then extended to dozens of other countries, without any clear metrics for how and when to lift them.
However, the U.S. has further extended its pandemic-related restrictions at land borders with Canada and Mexico that curb nonessential travel such as tourism through October 21. It gave no indication if it would apply the new vaccine rules to those land border crossings.
The United States has allowed foreign air travelers from more than 150 countries throughout the pandemic, a policy that was reportedly criticized as some countries with high COVID-19 rates were not on the restricted list, while some on the list had the pandemic more under control.
The latest move would mean that COVID-19 vaccine requirements will now apply to nearly all foreign nationals flying to the United States including those not subject to the prior restrictions.
Americans traveling from abroad who are not vaccinated will face tougher rules than vaccinated citizens, including needing to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within a day of travel and proof of purchasing a viral test to be taken after arrival.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that the latest policy has been entirely based on science and not diplomacy. U.S. COVID-19 infections and deaths have been rising since June amid the spread of the Delta variant, particularly among the unvaccinated. Nearly 29,000 new U.S. cases were reported on Sunday.
British Airways Chief Executive Sean Doyle said in a statement that the U.S. announcement marks a historic moment that will provide a huge boost to Global Britain as it emerges from this pandemic.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also called the announcement a fantastic boost for business and trade. He said that it is great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again. Germany’s U.S. ambassador, Emily Haber also mentioned that the step was hugely important to promote people-to-people contacts and transatlantic business.
Foreign nationals will now need to present proof of vaccination before travel and will not be required to quarantine on arrival.The White House said the final decision on what vaccines would be accepted is up to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC mentioned that it considers someone fully vaccinated with any FDA-authorized or approved vaccines and any vaccines that (the World Health Organization) has authorized. Exceptions include children not yet eligible for shots. Airlines heavily lobbied the White House to lift the restrictions, and it has been working since August on the new plan.