Washington: The US will soon reopen its borders to most foreign travellers as long as they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a top White House official announced on Monday.
The new rules for international travel will take effect in “early November,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said. European airline stocks gained following news of the changes.
Travellers will have to show proof of vaccination to board planes to the US, and the new regime will also involve stricter requirements for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, Zients said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will determine the definition of fully vaccinated, for international travellers, he said. The measures also include stricter testing requirements, including for unvaccinated Americans.
“We will protect Americans here at home and enhance the safety of international travel,” he said.
The new measures amount to a sweeping reform of strict entry rules imposed on visitors to the US to try to curb the spread of the virus. European countries in particular have complained that the US maintained travel restrictions on their vaccinated citizens even after they began allowing entry to vaccinated Americans.
News of the policy change sparked US airline shares to pare premarket losses. The United States currently bars most non-US citizens who within the last 14 days have been in Britain, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
It was not immediately clear which vaccines would be acceptable under the US-system and whether those unapproved in the US could be used. Zients said that decision would be up to the CDC.
The administration's action came on the eve of a visit by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was expected to press President Joe Biden to lift the ban. British officials had hoped the president would announce a relaxation of restrictions when he came to Cornwall, England, in June for the Group of 7 summit meeting and were disappointed when he did not. Their frustration has only deepened since then.
British officials note that the United States had not imposed a similar ban on people from Caribbean nations, which had a high rate of infection than Britain, or from Argentina, which had lower percentage of its population vaccinated. About 82% of people in Britain older than 16 have had two shots.
The European Union and Britain both allowed fully vaccinated people from the United States to travel without quarantining and officials there were annoyed when the United States did not reciprocate.
The ban, European officials point out, has kept families separated since March 2020, when former President Donald Trump first announced it, as the coronavirus was erupting across Europe. European countries have weathered a third wave of infections propelled by the delta variant. But in several countries, including Britain, infection rates have begun to level off and even decline.