U.S. to ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign visitors

中新社记者 刘关关 摄

中新社记者 刘关关 摄

Special: Battle Against Novel Coronavirus

The United States will no longer prohibit foreign visitors from entering the country starting November if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the White House said Monday when announcing a set of policy changes that will ease the international travel bans put in place to curb the transmission of the coronavirus.

People who are not U.S. citizens and who plan to travel to the United States will have to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated and a negative test result taken within three days of departure as they board a U.S.-bound flight, Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a press briefing.

Fully vaccinated international travelers entering the United States will no longer need to quarantine for 14 days after arrival, according to Zients, who also said the new rules will take effect in early November so as to give government agencies and airliners “time to prepare.”

For unvaccinated Americans returning to the United States, the coordinator said they will be “subject to stricter testing requirements,” including a test within one day of departure and proof that they have bought a test to take after arriving in the United States.

The specific vaccines that qualify a traveler as “fully vaccinated” will be determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Zients. Exceptions to the vaccination requirements include children not yet eligible for the shots, according to U.S. media reports citing people familiar.

Meanwhile, the CDC will roll out more stringent contact tracing requirements in the coming weeks, according to Zients, including information on U.S.-bound international travelers’ phone number and email address.

Zients also said existing rules governing land border crossings with Canada and Mexico remained unchanged.

Monday’s announcement will halt a patchwork of bans imposed by the former Trump administration since the onset of the pandemic on travel from 33 countries across the globe.

It will also finally give people overseas who have been separated from family in the United States the chance to reunite with their loved ones.

In addition to the expected easing of a major source of tension between the United States and Europe — which complained about U.S. hesitancy in removing the measures amid an uptick in vaccination rates — the new rules were also cheered by the travel industry in the United States, which has been lobbying the federal government to make the changes.

“U.S. airlines have been strong advocates for a stringent, consistent policy and are eager to safely reunite the countless families, friends and colleagues who have not seen each other in nearly two years, if not longer,” Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America, the lobbying group for the largest U.S. carriers, said in a statement.

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