US ends travel ban for vaccinated travelers

The United States has announced that it will lift its Covid-19 travel ban on air travelers in November if they are fully vaccinated, tested and contact tracing.

Jeffrey Zentes, President Joe Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters that the new “consistent approach” would come into effect in “early November.”

The easing of travel restrictions, which Donald Trump imposed 18 months ago as the COVID-19 pandemic first erupted, represents a major turnaround by Biden and meets a huge demand from European allies at a time of strained diplomatic relations.

The US restrictions were first imposed on travelers from China in January 2020 by Mr Trump and then extended to other countries in the following months, without any clear metrics for how and when they were lifted.

President Joe Biden in April of this year added new travel restrictions to India, banning most non-US citizens from entering the United States. Biden also reversed Trump’s plans in January to lift restrictions on European countries.

The United States currently bans most non-US citizens who have been in the past 14 days in Ireland, Britain, the 26 Schengen states of Europe without border controls, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

Officials said there will be some exceptions to the vaccine policy, including for children who are ineligible to be vaccinated. The new rules do not yet apply to travelers crossing the land borders with Mexico and Canada.

Airlines have lobbied hard on the White House for months to lift restrictions, but have been unsuccessful in lifting them in time for the summer travel season.

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The White House said in July it had concerns about the highly contagious delta type and the rising number of US COVID-19 cases.

The seven-day average of US cases has more than doubled since then.

Currently only US citizens, residents, and foreigners with special visas are allowed to enter the United States from most European countries.

The travel restrictions have angered the European Union and British authorities deeply.

The European Union has recommended member states reimpose restrictions on US travelers who were previously free to enter if they were vaccinated. American travelers were allowed to visit Europe during the summer season.

Biden’s move comes on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where the pandemic is set to be the main issue.

It also comes amid diplomatic tensions, with the United States and France squabbling bitterly Australia’s surprise announcement that it would acquire US nuclear submarines, ditching a previous French contract for conventionally powered submarines.

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