US to drop travel ban for vaccinated international travelers starting in early November

The United States announced a new international air travel system Monday, opening travel for all vaccinated foreign nationals in early November, including those currently impacted by the U.S. travel ban.

“This vaccination requirement deploys the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of the virus,” said White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients. “Vaccines continue to show that they’re highly effective, including against the delta variant, and the new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Travelers will need to show proof of full vaccination prior to boarding U.S.-bound planes. A COVID-19 test will also continue to be required within three days of departure and proof of negative results must be shown. Enhanced contact tracing and masking will also be required, but there will be no quarantine mandate.

►What travelers need to know: The new COVID rules for international flights to US don’t just impact foreign tourists

The new policy also adds more stringent testing requirements for unvaccinated U.S. travelers, who will need to test within one day of departure and once again after arrival.

Zients said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release a list of accepted vaccinations before the new policy goes into effect, as well as a contact tracing order that requires airlines to collect information such as phone numbers and email addresses of all U.S.-bound travelers.

“This will enable CDC and state and local public health officials to follow up with inbound travelers and those around them as someone has potentially been exposed to COVID-19 or other pathogens,” Zients said. “(It) will also strengthen our public health surveillance system against any future public health threats.”

Vaccinated Americans are still subject to the CDC’s requirement, put in place in January, to test negative for COVID-19 no more than three days before an international flight to the U.S.

The U.S. ban on nonessential travel has been in place since early 2020, starting with China and expanding to visitors from the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the 29 regions in the European Schengen region, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India.

European Union Ambassador to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis hinted at the decision on Twitter earlier Monday, before sharing the news: “Travel ban lifted! Vaccinated, pre-flight tested Europeans will again be able to travel to the US from November, just as vaccinated Americans are today allowed to travel to the EU.”

Slow to open the US

The U.S. has been among the slowest countries to lift its travel restrictions. While Canada reopened its land borders to U.S. travelers in early August, the U.S. has yet to announce when it will ease its land border restrictions. And even as European countries eased travel restrictions on U.S. travelers in the early summer months, the United States’ travel ban held fast.

‘Travel bans are really kind of silly’

In recent months, countries in the U.S. travel ban – including Italy, France, Spain and Sweden – have tightened entry requirements for travelers from the U.S. due to rising COVID-19 cases. Quarantine mandates, vaccine requirements and outright bans are some of the restrictions international U.S. travelers now face.

Critics and health experts have also questioned the effectiveness of the travel bans, especially after the U.S. took on its fourth surge of COVID-19 with the mandates in place.

Which EU countries are open to US tourists: A breakdown of EU travel restrictions by country

From Belize to BrazilHere are the travel restrictions across Central and South America due to COVID-19

When COVID-19 case counts are high, “travel bans are really kind of silly,” Susan Hassig, an epidemiologist at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, told USA TODAY. “We’ve already got more than enough virus circulating.”

Hassig said the new travel policy “makes a lot of sense” and is a “substantial and relevant step forward” but could be strengthened with a quarantine mandate.

“I would have liked to have seen a three-day quarantine upon arrival, whether you’re returning American or foreign national … especially with delta still circulating as much as it is,” she said. Hassig noted that it’s possible for travelers to get infected the day before travel, which could be too soon to appear on a post-arrival test.

Travel industry, other countries ‘delighted’ over announcement

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday on Twitter that he was “delighted” to hear that the travel ban would drop on vaccinated U.K. residents, and called the new travel policy a “fantastic boost for business and trade.”

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1 Comment

  1. Sara
    september 21, 2021

    Finally! 🙌🏽

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