The United States will lift travel restrictions for vaccinated visitors from Europe and the rest of the world within the next two months, a White House spokesperson announced on Monday.
The Biden administration plans to implement in early November “strict protocols” to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which will include a requirement for all adult foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. to be fully vaccinated, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing on Monday. That will prove a more “equitable” policy than the ban on non-citizens who had been in the European Union’s Schengen zone and several countries including the U.K., Brazil, China, Ireland, India and South Africa that has been in place since the early days of the pandemic and which, to date, the administration had declined to lift.
In an earlier briefing on Monday, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said that travelers will need to show proof of vaccination prior to boarding a flight to the U.S. as well as negative results from a Covid-19 test taken within three days of departure. Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens also will be required to take a pre-flight Covid-19 test before returning to the United States, and non-vaccinated U.S. citizens will have tighter restrictions, including a required test after arrival home.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will introduce a contract-tracing order through which airlines will be able to collect information from passengers, which can be provided to the CDC upon request, Psaki said.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a tweet said he was “delighted” by the news that would open the door for U.K. nationals to visit the United States once again, calling it “a fantastic boost for business and trade.”
Travel and trade industry leaders similarly were enthused. U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow in a statement called it “a major turning point in the management of the virus” that will “accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions.” U.S. Chamber of Commerce EVP and head of international affairs Myron Brilliant said the policy “will help foster a robust and durable recovery for the American economy.”
On the supplier side, United Airlines in a statement the policy was “welcome news” and that it was ready to implement requirements as the finer details are announced. International Air Transport Association director general Willie Walsh called it “a major step forward.”
“This announcement marks a key shift in managing the risks of Covid-19 from blanket considerations at the national level to assessment of individual risk,” according to Walsh. “The next challenge is finding a system to manage the risks for travelers who do not have access to vaccinations.”
TripActions CEO Ariel Cohen said the policy “paves the way to a strong recovery of business travel,” noting that TripActions already had seen its bookings increase by 57 percent over the past three weeks.
“With the right health and safety measures in place, plus strong partnerships among policymakers, suppliers and corporate travel partners, the new rules should open the floodgates for worldwide economic recovery and bring much-needed business to airlines, hotels and destinations affected by the pandemic,” Cohen said in a statement.
Business Travel Association CEO Clive Wratten, meanwhile, said that while the policy is a “light at the end of a very dark tunnel,” he urged government officials to speed up the timeline and to stick to the policy.
“Waiting until November harms businesses on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said. “Once travel between the [U.K. and U.S.] resumes, it must be on a permanent basis.”