Citing vaccinations, testing, and mask-wearing as the best way to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, President Joe Biden declared in a statement on Monday that the US would “move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied” and adopt a policy “that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel” to the US.
The original travel restrictions, imposed in March 2020 and renewed by Biden earlier this year, will be lifted in two weeks. They will be replaced by new restrictions involving vaccination status and contact tracing, however.
The accepted vaccines will be only those approved or authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization.
Airlines will be required to verify travelers’ proof of vaccination against Covid-19 and provide their contact information to US federal authorities. Even fully vaccinated passengers will still have to submit a negative Covid-19 test taken in the final three days before their flight, while those without proof of vaccination will have to show a same-day negative test, according to the officials.
While some exceptions are envisaged, they will apply mostly to travelers under the age of 18 – who have to show a negative test, even if traveling with fully vaccinated adults – and those with valid medical reasons preventing them from being inoculated. Those traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with “low vaccine availability” will also be exempt.
Unvaccinated visitors will have to show proof of a pre-departure negative test, wear a mask on the flight, present proof of post-arrival testing, and quarantine on arrival, complying with other measures as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Biden’s statement said.
His administration has been signaling it would lift the travel restrictions since late September, but Monday’s announcement gave the details and the expected date.
In March 2020, the Trump administration restricted non-Americans from flying in from the UK, the European Union, China, India, South Africa, and Brazil to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Though the ban was criticized by the Democrats at the time as “xenophobic,” Biden extended it once he was sworn into office in January.
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