The US on Nov. 8 plans to reopen its land and air borders to foreign visitors who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, loosening a more than 18-month ban on travel from much of the globe that separated families, hobbled tourism and strained diplomatic ties.
The decision to ease restrictions was “guided by public health, stringent and consistent,” White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz wrote on Twitter on Friday, announcing the policy.
He said the “announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel.”
The new policy was quickly hailed by the EU Ambassador to the US Stavros Lambrinidis, who called it “important and very welcome news,” and wrote on Twitter that more details were expected to follow.
In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, US borders were closed after March last year to travelers from large parts of the world, including China, Brazil, India, the UK and the EU. Overland visitors from Mexico and Canada were also banned.
The months of restrictions affecting hundreds of millions of people helped fuel personal and economic suffering brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Airlines for America trade association said its members were “eager to begin safely reuniting ... countless families, friends and colleagues,” adding that the “reopening of borders is essential for our nation’s economic recovery.”
International Air Transport Association director-general Willie Walsh said that “for the millions who have been locked out of the US for up to 18 months, it is great news that the US will welcome fully vaccinated foreign travelers.”
Not all the technical and logistical details of the new policy have been announced, but officials had previously outlined them, saying that vaccinated air passengers would need to be tested for the virus within three days of travel, and airlines would be required to have a contact tracing system.
US health authorities have said all COVID-19 vaccines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the WHO would be accepted for entry by air.
This week, a White House source said the land border opening would happen in two phases.
Initially, vaccines would be required for “non-essential” trips — such as visiting family or tourism — although unvaccinated travelers would be allowed into the country for “essential” trips.
A second phase beginning in early January next year would require all visitors to be fully vaccinated to enter the US by land, no matter the reason for their trip.
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