The United States government has announced that it will relax entry restrictions on fully vaccinated travellers travelling to the US.
For millions of people around the world, the announcement by the Biden administration has brought the news that everyone was hoping for. The travel ban, which was implemented in the early days of COVID-19, is set to be lifted after 18 months. For the last 18 months, the only people allowed to visit the North American country from the United Kingdom, European Union and a number of other countries have been US citizens, immediate family members, and those on a short list of exemptions.
However, President Biden has finally announced the repealing of the ban, set to come into effect in November. The exact date has yet to be disclosed, but is expected to be in early November. This means that travellers who can prove their vaccination status and who present a negative COVID-19 test taken not more than 3 days before arrival, can travel without restrictions once in the US. Phone numbers and contact details will also be taken for contact tracing, and masks must be worn for the journey to and from the United States.
Those who are not vaccinated will not be stopped from entering, but will be subjected to stringent COVID testing requirements. The United States government has not yet outlined what those requirements will be.
The new regime will replace the 212f restrictions which currently prevent anyone from entering the US if they had been in 33 specific countries including the UK, Ireland, all Schengen countries, Brazil, India, South Africa and China within the last 14 days.
The lifting of the US Travel ban comes just days after the United Kingdom announced sweeping reforms to its own COVID-19 travel restrictions, including the removal of pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated travellers.
Reaction from the Travel and Aviation Industry
Yesterday’s announcement by the US government came as a surprise to UK airlines and the wider travel industry, which had been campaigning for it for many months.
Virgin Atlantic, which has built its operating model on the transatlantic market, was one of the first to issue a statement on the news. Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic, said:
The US Government’s announcement that fully vaccinated UK visitors will be able to enter the US from November is a major milestone to the reopening of travel at scale, allowing consumers and businesses to book travel to the US with confidence. The US has been our heartland for more than 37 years since our first flight to New York City in 1984. We are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic. After 18 months of uncertainty, we cannot wait to welcome our customers back onboard, flying them safely to their favourite US destination.
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Sean Doyle, CEO and Chairman, British Airways, said:
Today’s news, which will see our two nations reunited after more than 18 months apart, marks an historic moment and one which will provide a huge boost to Global Britain as it emerges from this pandemic. We are immensely grateful to the Prime Minister and his Government for all the hard work that’s gone into securing this deal with the US, and which builds upon last Friday’s announcement on the lifting of many travel restrictions. Our customers should now feel that the world is re-opening to them and they can book their trips with confidence.
Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Industry Body Airlines UK, similarly welcomed the move, saying:
The US is one of our most important markets and the air corridor is worth billions of pounds a year in trade and tourism – safeguarding thousands of jobs. Things are moving in the right direction and ministers deserve credit for getting us to this point.
Julia Simpson, President & CEO, WTTC, said:
The prospect of the U.S. lifting travel restrictions to restore transatlantic travel between the U.K. and U.S is welcome news – not just for hard-pressed airlines but for the wider Travel & Tourism sector, which has been decimated by COVID-19. It will finally enable families to reunite, business travellers to resume face-to-face meetings and for Travel & Tourism to return for Brits looking to travel to America. The UK alone represents 8 per cent of all inbound travel to the US, accounting for US$ 40 million per day to the nation’s economy.
Andrew Crawley, American Express Global Business Travel’s Chief Commercial Officer, said:
After more than 550 days of shut borders, we are thrilled that the US will finally be reopening to fully vaccinated travellers from the UK and EU. There is huge pent-up demand for transatlantic travel among our customers and we fully expect to see a sustained spike in bookings. It is a positive step forward for global economic recovery and we await further details from the White House.
The Financial Times reports that the US Centers for Disease Control is still determining which vaccines will be accepted by the US. The Food and Drug Administration has authorised the BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Willie Walsh, Director General, The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said:
Today’s announcement is a major step forward. Allowing access to the US for those vaccinated will open travel to the US for many who have been locked out for the past 18 months. This is excellent news for families and loved ones who have suffered through the heartache and loneliness of separation. It’s good for the millions of livelihoods in the US that depend on global tourism. And it will boost the economic recovery by enabling some key business travel markets. This announcement marks a key shift in managing the risks of COVID-19 from blanket considerations at the national level to assessment of individual risk. The next challenge is finding a system to manage the risks for travelers who do not have access to vaccinations. Data points to testing as a solution. But it is also critical that governments accelerate the global rollout of vaccines and agree a global framework for travel where testing resources are focused on unvaccinated travelers. We must get back to a situation where the freedom to travel is available to all
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