Biden eases overseas travel restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers from November

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States will ease foreign travel restrictions within the country from November, allowing foreigners to enter if they have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test, announced Monday the White House.

The new rules will replace a mishmash of restrictions that barred non-citizens who were in Europe, much of Asia and some other countries in the previous 14 days from entering the United States. travel restrictions for 18 months to plan for the long-awaited reunifications.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients announced the new policies, which will still require all foreign travelers to the United States to present proof of vaccination prior to boarding, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test performed within three days of the flight. Biden will also tighten testing rules for unvaccinated U.S. citizens, who will need to be tested the day before returning to the U.S., as well as after returning home.

Fully vaccinated passengers will not be required to self-quarantine, Zients said.

The new policy will replace the patchwork of travel bans first instituted by President Donald Trump last year and reinforced by Biden that restrict travel by non-nationals who have stayed in the previous 14 days in the UK , in the European Union, in China, in India and in Iran. , Republic of Ireland, Brazil and South Africa.

These travel bans had become the source of growing geopolitical frustration, especially among allies in the UK and the EU where cases of the virus are far lower than in the US. The easing precedes Biden’s meeting with some European leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this week.

“This is based on individuals rather than a national approach, so it’s a stronger system,” Zients said.

The EU and the UK had already decided to allow vaccinated American travelers to their territory without quarantine, in a bid to boost business and tourist travel. But the EU recommended last month that some travel restrictions be reimposed on American travelers in the bloc due to the rampant spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus in America.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also require airlines to collect contact information from international travelers to facilitate tracing, Zients said.

It was not immediately clear which vaccines would be acceptable under the US system and whether those not approved in the US could be used. Zients said that decision would be up to the CDC.

Zients said there would be no immediate changes to US policies on land borders, which continue to restrict many cross-border travel with Mexico and Canada.

The announcement was met with cheers from the airline industry, which has lost significant revenue due to the decline in international travel linked to the pandemic.

“We applaud the Biden administration for paving the way for reopening international travel to the United States,” Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant said. “Science tells us that vaccinations combined with testing are the safest way to reopen travel and we are optimistic that this important decision will allow continued economic recovery in the United States and abroad and the reunification of people. families separated for more than 18 months. “

Globally, air travel is still down by more than half of pre-pandemic levels, and the decline is much steeper for cross-border flights. In July, domestic travel was down to 84% of 2019 figures, but international travel was only 26% from the same month two years ago, according to figures released this month by the world’s largest trading group. of the airline industry, the International Air Transport Association.

The numbers are similar but not as striking for the United States, where international travel in August was 46% of that in August 2019, according to Airlines for America. Arrivals of non-U.S. Citizens were only 36% of normal in 2019.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “delighted” with the news. He said: “It’s a tremendous boost for business and commerce, and it’s great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can come together again.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted that the move was “great news for travelers from the UK to the US. Important for our economic recovery, families and commerce. “

Britain lifted quarantines for fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and the European Union in early August and pushed for Washington to relax its rules. But Johnson said on Sunday he didn’t expect the change to happen this week.

Airlines hailed the US move as a lifeline for the struggling industry. Tim Alderslade, managing director of industry body Airlines UK, said it was a “major breakthrough”.

Shai Weiss, Managing Director of Virgin Atlantic, said it was “a major step towards reopening large-scale travel, allowing consumers and businesses to book travel to the United States with confidence.” .

“The UK will now be able to strengthen its ties with our most important economic partner, the United States, by boosting trade and tourism as well as bringing together friends, family and work colleagues,” Weiss said .

French entrepreneur Stéphane Le Breton, 45, expressed his joy at finally being able to book his trip to New York which had been suspended due to virus restrictions.

“I felt frustrated that I couldn’t go to the United States as I had planned. It just didn’t make sense that the authorities wouldn’t let in vaccinated European citizens. “

Le Breton, who lives in the Paris suburb of Boulogne, said he believed the United States’ lifting of restrictions was a sign the world was heading into a new and better phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a happy day. Big Apple, here I am! “

The new air travel policy will come into effect “in early November,” Zients said, to allow airlines and travel partners to prepare to implement the new protocols.


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