US to lift Covid travel ban for vaccinated passengers from UK and most of EU

Photograph: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

The US will lift Covid-19 travel restrictions to allow fully vaccinated passengers from the UK and EU to travel into the country from November, the Biden administration has announced.

The move will mark the end of a travel ban imposed by Donald Trump more than 18 months ago in the early stages of the pandemic, and comes after intense lobbying from Brussels and London.

In addition to the UK and the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, the move will also apply to Ireland, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India.

Under current policy, only American citizens, their immediate families, green card holders and those with national interest exemptions (NIE) can travel into the US if they have been in the UK or EU in the previous two weeks.

The White House coronavirus response coordinator, Jeff Zients, told PBS on Monday that international travelers will require proof of full vaccination and a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure.

The move will be part of a new travel system the US, including updated rules on contact tracing and masking that will mean unvaccinated Americans will face stricter testing requirements.

A state department official denied that the change in policy was an attempt to mollify Europe following the falling out between the US and France over the Aukus Australian submarine deal, which Washington negotiated without Paris’s knowledge.

“This is really driven by the science of Covid and as more people are being vaccinated around the world, we of course want people to be able to travel more freely,” said Erica Barks-Ruggles, a senior official in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.

Speaking during a briefing call with reporters ahead of the United Nations general assembly, Barkes-Ruggles said: “We’re really always being driven by the science, and we continue to do that.”

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