The US government will require adult foreigners to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the country, in a policy change that involves lifting entry restrictions for travelers from the United Kingdom, the European Union, Brazil, and other countries.
The White House confirmed on Monday the change in health policies to end travel bans will take effect at the beginning of November, to give airlines and travel companies time to prepare to apply the new protocols.
Currently, the United States prohibits most non-US citizens from the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries of Europe, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran, and Brazil. And it allows the rest of the qualified travelers to enter without a vaccination certificate.
Fully vaccinated passengers will be able to travel once the ban is lifted in a few weeks, and people participating in clinical trials of formulas not yet approved in the US will also be allowed to enter. However, they must present a negative PCR test done 72 hours prior to the trip, without the need to quarantine upon arrival.
Unvaccinated US citizens traveling abroad will also have to undergo a test one day before and one day after returning to the country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also require airlines to collect contact information from international travelers to facilitate contact tracing, Zients said.
At the moment, it is unknown if the requirement will apply to any vaccine approved by the countries of origin or only to those authorized by Washington. The final guidlines will be in the hands of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board last week that the administration did not plan to immediately relax any travel restrictions due to the Delta variant cases, but the determination of entry requirements for vaccinated foreign visitors was considered.
“This is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so it is a stronger system,” Zients said Monday.
Some tourism industry officials feared that the Biden government would not lift travel restrictions for months or potentially until 2022. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had on his agenda to ask the president to allow British travelers to enter, as part of the meeting to be held in the US.
The travel restrictions, which had been in place since March 2020, had been widely criticized by European partners, where the vaccination rate is higher than in the US.
The case curve in the United States has remained on a plateau in recent days, with an average of almost 150,000 infections per day, although the number of deaths continues to rise, exceeding 2,000 per day.
Biden has raised the pressure on the unvaccinated and the measure on passengers could emphasize the importance of immunization.
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