The White House on Monday said that President Biden will allow vaccinated Europeans to enter the US in early November — ending a nearly two-year travel ban.
The policy will allow vaccinated travelers to enter the US from the 26-country Schengen Zone and from other countries that were early COVID-19 hotspots, including Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, South Africa and the UK.
The ban on European travelers has been a particular point of diplomatic contention because Europe has seen infection rates fall far below those in the US. And most European countries recently reopened to US visitors.
“We have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel,” said White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients.
The ban, initially put into place by former President Donald Trump, was enacted to stop the spread of COVID-19 to the US from hotspots in Europe.Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images
The decision to end the ban comes following the European Union removing the US from its “safe list” of places with low COVID-19 rates.PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images
“Most importantly, foreign nationals flying to the U.S. will be required to be fully vaccinated.”
The decision comes after the European Union last month took the US off its “safe list” of countries — resulting in a tightening of restrictions on Americans.
The EU and UK had previously moved to allow vaccinated U.S. travelers into their territories without quarantines, in an effort to boost business and tourism travel. But the EU recommended last month that some travel restrictions be reimposed on U.S. travelers to the bloc because of 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 U.S.-system and whether those unapproved in the U.S. could be used. Zients said that decision would be up to the CDC.
Zients said there would be no immediate changes to the U.S. land border policies, which continue to restrict much cross-border travel with Mexico and Canada.
Britain welcomed the U.S. announcement that it is lifting quarantine requirements for vaccinated international travelers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “delighted” by the news. He said: “It’s a fantastic boost for business and trade, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted that the move was “excellent news for travelers from the UK to the US. Important for out economic recovery, families and trade.”
Britain scrapped quarantines for fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. and the European Union in early August, and has been pushing for Washington to ease its rules. But Johnson said Sunday that he did not expect the change to come this week.
Airlines hailed the U.S. decision as a lifeline for the struggling industry. Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines U.K. said it was “a major breakthrough.”
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said it was “a major milestone to the reopening of travel at scale, allowing consumers and businesses to book travel to the U.S. with confidence.”
“The U.K. will now be able to strengthen ties with our most important economic partner, the U.S., boosting trade and tourism as well as reuniting friends, families and business colleagues,” Weiss said.
The new air travel policy will take effect in “early November,” Zients said, to allow airlines and travel partners time to prepare to implement the new protocols.
— with Associated Press