US to open borders to vaccinated travelers

Travel news

By
September 21, 2021

By | September 21, 2021

Restrictions lifted for European and UK tourists from November as travel rules ease

Following on from the UK’s announcement that it’s introducing more simplified rules for travelers entering the country, the US is preparing to follow suit. From November, more uniform requirements will replace the patchwork mix of regulations currently in place.

Foreign nationals entering the US and American citizens returning to the US will now have to provide proof of vaccination and will be required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test within three days of their flight, showing proof of their negative result before boarding. Fully vaccinated passengers won’t be subject to quarantine on arrival either.

The simplification of the rules has been welcomed by the thousands of people with family in the US who had been kept apart for virtually the entire pandemic. Many European nations also welcomed the news, with the previous scattergun approach provoking anger and bafflement in equal measure.

A realistic timeline

Couple Visiting New York With Manhattan Skyline In BackgroundForeign nationals entering the US and American citizens returning to the US will now have to provide proof of vaccination and will be required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test within three days of their flight — Shutterstock

White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said the proposed November timeline — which also includes countries such as Brazil, India, and China — was realistic and would give agencies and airlines “time to prepare”. 

He also said that airlines would have to play their part, asking them to take more responsibility. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be issuing contact tracing orders to airlines, requiring them to collect information from inbound US travelers, including a phone number and email address. This means airlines will be able to keep in touch with passengers for up to 30 days, warning them of potential exposure were it to come to light.

Unvaccinated Americans will be subject to stricter measures, including a test within one day of departure and an additional test when they return.

From frustration to cooperation

The developments have been welcomed by the travel industry. Airlines, the hotel industry, and hospitality groups, in general, have been lobbying the US government to lift many of the rules, with all supporting the proposal that fully vaccinated tourists be allowed to visit.

As travel in Europe has been opening up, many European governments have been left frustrated at the intransigence of the US leadership. As European countries’ vaccination rates increased, the frustration grew, as citizens from some nations with higher Covid rates were still permitted entry to the US.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the announcement “a fantastic boost for business and trade, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again.” Germany’s U.S. ambassador, Emily Haber, said on Twitter it was “hugely important to promote people-to-people contacts and transatlantic business.”

“We’re basing it on science”

hiker treks along rim of canyon cliff in canyonlands national park adventure Fully vaccinated passengers won’t be subject to quarantine on arrival to the US — Shutterstock

When Europe opened its borders in June, a lack of reciprocation was said to have driven the move to reverse the decision a month later. This forthcoming relaxing of travel rules is being welcomed as a step towards mending relationships between the US and, particularly, countries in the Schengen Area and the United Kingdom.

However, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday the policy was not timed for diplomacy. “If we were going to make things much easier for ourselves, we would have done it prior to June, when the president had his first foreign trip, or earlier this summer. This is when the process concluded,” she said. “We’re basing it on science.”

The timing of the announcement seems especially emotive since Thanksgiving in the US will come a couple of weeks after the proposed lifting of the ban. As mentioned, many families and friends will be seeing each other for the first time in maybe two years, so there is expected to be a huge surge in bookings and travel leading up to it.

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