Biden eases travel to US to those with COVID vaccinations

© Provided by Al Jazeera Passengers wearing face masks walk at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland following institution of COVID-19 travel requirements [File: Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva via Reuters]

President Joe Biden will ease foreign travel restrictions into the United States beginning in November, when his administration will require all foreign nationals flying into the country to be fully vaccinated.

All foreign travellers flying to the US will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of flight, said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients, who announced the new policy on Monday.

“This vaccination requirement deploys the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of the virus,” said Zients.

Biden will tighten testing rules for unvaccinated American citizens, who will need to be tested within a day before returning to the US from abroad, as well as after they arrive home.

Fully vaccinated passengers will not be required to quarantine, Zients said on a conference call with reporters.

The new policy will replace a patchwork of pandemic travel restrictions first instituted by President Donald Trump last year and tightened by Biden earlier this year that restrict travel by non-citizens who have been in the United Kingdom, European Union, China, India, Iran, Republic of Ireland, Brazil and South Africa.

“This is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so it’s a stronger system,” Zients said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will require airlines to collect contact information from international travellers to facilitate contact tracing, Zients said.

It was not immediately clear which vaccines would be acceptable under the new US system and whether those unapproved in the US could be used. Zients said that decision would be up to the CDC.

The new policy will take effect in “early November”, Zients said, to allow airlines and travel partners time to prepare to implement the new protocols.

Last month, Canada began to allow American tourists who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to enter after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government lifted months-long restrictions on non-essential travel into the country.

In April, the US State Department urged Americans to reconsider international travel and issued specific warnings not to visit roughly 80 percent of the world’s countries due to risks from the coronavirus pandemic.

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