US plans to ease travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers

The United States plans to ease travel restrictions on all fully vaccinated foreign visitors starting in November. Donald Trump introduced the travel ban in March 2020. There had been much speculation in recent months about when President Joe Biden would change the rules.

The White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said that the new rules will require all foreign nationals arriving in the United States to show proof of being fully vaccinated. He also said that the new rules would take effect in early November, a timeline that will give agencies and airlines time to prepare.

In addition to requiring vaccination, the administration said it was taking other steps to mitigate the spread of the virus in three other areas: testing, contact tracing, and masking.

Fully vaccinated foreign nationals and American citizens returning to the United States from abroad will be required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test within three days of their flight, and show proof of a negative result before boarding. Unvaccinated Americans returning to the US will be subject to stricter testing requirements, including a test within one day of departure and an additional test when they return.

Fully vaccinated passengers will not be subject to any quarantine mandates upon arrival in the US.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to issue a contact tracing order requiring airlines to collect information from US-bound travelers, including a phone number and email address, to alert travelers of potential exposure. Airlines will be required to keep contact tracing information for 30 days.

The new rules don’t affect land travel. The order restricting overland travel to the US from Mexico and Canada is still in place. Under the current rules, only US citizens, residents, and foreigners with special visas are allowed to enter the US from the majority of European countries.

The development is a first step toward repairing one of the several emerging rifts between the Biden administration and officials in Europe. A spat has emerged between the United States and France over a deal to equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, depriving France of a contract to provide conventional subs. European leaders also found consultations with the Biden team over Afghanistan to be lacking.

Sources: CNN; BBC; The Financial Times