The White House has announced that the United States will lift its Covid-19 travel restrictions to allow fully vaccinated travelers from the United Kingdom and most European Union (EU) countries to travel to the country from the beginning of November.
The move marks the end of Donald Trump’s travel ban more than 18 months ago in the early stages of the pandemic, and comes after intense pressure from Brussels and London.
In addition to the UK and the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, the easing of restrictions will also apply to Ireland, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India.
It was greeted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who tweeted: “It’s a wonderful boost for business and commerce, and it’s great to get back together with family and friends on both sides of the pond.”
Downing Street praised the decision as a result of the bilateral “travel task force” that has been meeting every two weeks since the summer, although it could not say what benefit it had, given that the easing of restrictions applies to dozens of other countries. . in addition to the UK.
Under current policy, only US citizens and their immediate families, green card holders, and those with national interest exemptions (NIEs) are allowed to travel to the US If they have been to the UK or the EU in the last two weeks.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zents said Monday that international travelers will require a full vaccination test before boarding a plane and a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure. They will not be asked to self-quarantine upon arrival.
There will be some exceptions to the vaccination policy, even for children who are not yet eligible for vaccination. The new rules do not yet apply to travelers crossing the land borders with Mexico and Canada.
“This new international travel system is following science to keep international and US air travel safe,” Zenitz told reporters. “By requiring foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated to travel to the United States and implementing additional stringent security protocols, we will protect Americans here at home and enhance the safety of international travel.
“This is based on individuals rather than a state focus.”
Zenitz added that the new policy will take effect “early November”, to give airlines and travel partners time to prepare to implement the new protocols.
British Airways Chief Executive Sean Doyle said the US announcement “represents a historic moment that will provide a huge boost to the global UK when it comes out of this pandemic.”
Shares of US airlines changed little, while some European airlines rose. British Airways IAG SA shares rose 11.2%, while Air France-KLM and Deutsche Lufthansa AG closed more than 5% more.
The International Air Transport Association, or IATA, which has 290 member airlines representing 82% of global air travel, described it as a “major step forward.”
“This is great news for families and loved ones … good for the millions of livelihoods in the United States that depend on global tourism. It will fuel economic recovery by enabling some of the key business travel markets. “Willie said. Walsh, Director General of IATA.
The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will issue a contact tracing order that requires airlines to collect a phone number, email address and other information from travelers bound for the United States.
“This will allow the CDC and state and local public health officials to track inbound travelers and their surroundings if someone has been exposed to Covid-19,” Zenitz explained.
The changes will be part of the new US travel system, including updated rules on contact tracing and masking, meaning that Americans who are not immune will face stricter testing requirements.
The restrictions were first imposed on travelers from China in January 2020 by Trump and then spread to other countries in the following months, without any clear metrics on how and when they got up.
In April of this year, Joe Biden added new restrictions to India, prohibiting most non-US citizens from entering the United States. He also reversed Trump’s plans to lift restrictions on European countries.
This led to growing frustration in Europe, especially after the vaccination rate recovered from a slow start that surpassed that of the United States. Airlines have failed to persuade the White House to lift restrictions on the summer travel season.
Biden is likely to face renewed pressure when he meets face-to-face with Johnson and other European leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week. About 3.8 million Britons visited the United States each year before the pandemic, according to the Foreign Office.
Ms Karen Pierce, British Ambassador to Washington, said: “Today’s travel announcement is good news for families and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. We are grateful that the US has recognized the progress that the The UK has succeeded against Covid-19, including declining vaccination rates and cases. ”
“This decision means that more Britons can reunite with their loved ones in America, more British vacationers can spend their hard-earned pounds in the American tourism sector and more business activities can boost our economies,” she added.
A State Department official denied that the policy change was an attempt to placate Europe in the wake of the dispute between the United States and France over the Australian submarine Aukus deal, which Washington negotiated without the knowledge of Paris, leading to France to withdraw its ambassador to the United States.
“This is really driven by the science of Covid, and with more people receiving around the world, of course we want people to be able to travel more freely,” said Erica Parks Ruggles, a senior official at the Office of Organizational Affairs. International.
Speaking during a press call with journalists before the United Nations General Assembly, Parks-Ruggles said: “Science has always guided us and we continue to do so.”
The European Union and the United Kingdom have taken steps to allow vaccinated American travelers to enter their territories without being quarantined, in a bid to boost business and tourist travel. But the European Union recommended last month that some travel restrictions be reimposed on American travelers due to the spread of the delta variable.
The US announcement also came in the context of Biden’s push for other countries to join the US in donating vaccines to the Covax Global Initiative. The president is scheduled to host a summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.