Press "Enter" to skip to content

US to end travel bans for vaccinated passengers

Sebastian Smith – Agence France-Presse

September 21, 2021 | 7:42am

WASHINGTON, United States — The United States announced Monday it will lift Covid travel bans on all air passengers in November if they are fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing.

The unprecedented restrictions had kept relatives, friends and business travelers around the world separated for many months as the pandemic grinds on.

Jeffrey Zients, coronavirus response coordinator for President Joe Biden, told reporters the new “consistent approach” would take effect “early November.”

The easing of travel restrictions, imposed by Donald Trump 18 months ago as the Covid-19 pandemic first erupted, marks a significant shift by Biden and answers a major demand from European allies at a time of strained diplomatic relations.

Numerous safeguards will remain in place to suppress spread of the virus, which has already killed more than 675,000 Americans and is resurgent after what many had hoped was a lasting dip earlier this year.

“Most importantly, foreign nationals flying to the US will be required to be fully vaccinated,” Zients said.

It was not immediately clear if the new rule only applied to US-approved vaccines or if other brands, such as those produced in China or Russia, would also qualify. Zients said that would be determined by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Restrictions on vehicle movement from Canada and Mexico will remain in place.

Zients said passengers will need to show they were fully vaccinated before boarding planes bound for the United States, as well as providing proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days.

Americans not fully vaccinated will still be able to enter, but only on testing negative within a day of travel.

Masks will be obligatory on US-bound flights, and airlines will provide the US health authorities with contact tracing information.

“This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans’ international air travel safe,” Zients said.

‘Great news’

The change means many families and friends can be reunited, sometimes after nearly two years apart. 

Phil White, a British entrepreneur living near San Francisco, told AFP his daughter plans to finally visit from London in November. 

“As a family we’re going to be together for Thanksgiving, which is amazing,” he said, adding that he had not seen his daughter for 18 or 19 months. 

“That has been very, very, very difficult for us, as everyone can imagine,” White said.

And British and German officials quickly welcomed the lifting of the near total ban. The German ambassador to the United States called it “great news.”

“Hugely important to promote people-to-people contacts and transatlantic business,” Ambassador Emily Haber tweeted.

The announcement was also hailed by airlines, which have taken a huge hit during the pandemic shutdown.

The trade group Airlines For Europe predicted “a much-needed boost to trans-Atlantic traffic & tourism and will reunite families and friends.”

While it had been widely expected that Biden would reopen borders to the European Union and Britain, the announcement covers the globe.

“This applies to all international travel,” Zients said. 

Currently only US citizens, residents and foreigners with special visas are allowed to enter the United States from most European countries.

In an interview in Washington with AFP, Thierry Breton, European commissioner for internal market, said he was hopeful the policy will be extended to include the AstraZeneca shot used by many European nations, which has not been approved by US health authorities. 

Breton said he spoke with Zients, who “sounded positive and optimistic.” 

The restriction has deeply irked EU and British authorities. On Monday, the European Union recommended that member states reimpose restrictions on American travelers who had earlier been free to enter if vaccinated.

Breton said the restrictions “no longer made any sense,” given Europe’s high vaccination rates. 

Biden’s move comes on the eve of his speech to the annual UN General Assembly in New York, where the pandemic is due to be the headline issue.

It also comes as Washington and Paris spar bitterly over Australia’s sudden announcement that it will acquire US-built nuclear submarines as part of a new defense alliance, ditching a previous French contract for conventionally powered submarines.

“This is really driven by the science,” a State Department official said, denying the travel decision was an attempt to smooth ruffled French feathers.

As It Happens

LATEST UPDATE: September 21, 2021 – 10:14am

Find the latest travel and tourism news from around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic. Main image by AFP/Romeo Gacad

September 21, 2021 – 10:14am

The United States announces it will lift COVID travel bans on all air passengers in November if they are fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing.

The unprecedented restrictions had kept relatives, friends and business travelers around the world separated for many months as the pandemic grinds on.

Jeffrey Zients, coronavirus response coordinator for President Joe Biden, tells reporters the new “consistent approach” would take effect “early November.” — AFP

September 20, 2021 – 1:08pm

Fiji plans to reopen for international tourists by November, aiming to rebuild a pandemic-devastated economy while battling a Delta-variant coronavirus outbreak.

“Our goal is to free our country –– and our economy –– from the rut of the pandemic,” Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said in a statement last week.   

Once 80 percent of Fiji’s eligible population is vaccinated, it will offer quarantine-free travel to visitors from a “green list” of locations.

Of Fiji’s eligible population, 66 percent is now fully vaccinated and Bainimarama predicts the country’s target will be met by November 1.

Fiji’s green list includes Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Korea, Singapore and parts of the United States.

Visitors would need to be fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 prior to departure.

Once in Fiji, they would stay in designated zones where all contacts, from hospitality staff to tour operators, would be fully vaccinated. –– AFP

September 17, 2021 – 9:23am

The government pandemic task force updates the list of Red List countries.

Travelers from Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Serbia and Slovenia will not be permitted to enter the Philippines.

This new classification will take effect from September 19 to 30.

September 15, 2021 – 7:57pm

Iran resumes commercial flights to neighboring Afghanistan, where the Taliban took control last month.

“Today Mahan Air carried passengers between Mashhad and Kabul airport,” Fars news agency reports, referring to Iran’s second-largest city, in the northeast, and the Afghan capital.

“At present, this airliner is returning to Mashhad with passengers.” — AFP

September 13, 2021 – 7:22am

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday announced plans to introduce Covid-19 “vaccine passports” amid widespread scepticism of the jab, ahead of an easing of movement restrictions this week.

After sluggish vaccine procurement and a delayed roll out, Africa’s worst-hit country for Covid is now struggling with low take-up, particularly among men.

In a televised address to the nation, Ramaphosa stressed that an immunised adult population was key to fully reopening the economy and avoiding a fourth infection wave. — AFP

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.