Airlines expressed delight at the September 20 U.S. government decision to lift a complete ban on many foreign visitors imposed more than 18 months ago at the start of the Covid pandemic. From early November, fully vaccinated travelers from Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India, and Iran will be admitted with proof of full vaccination before their flight and a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure for the U.S.
European governments, in particular, have been lobbying hard since the European Union (EU), as well as the UK, lifted restrictions on vaccinated American visitors in June. However, in recent weeks the EU has proposed that member states impose new restrictions in response to rising infection rates in the U.S. of the Delta variant of Covid.
In announcing the change of policy, the Biden Administration did not specify an exact date for the lifting of restrictions. White House Covid response coordinator Jeff Zients said that the new policy will take effect from “early November” to allow airlines and the travel industry to prepare to comply with detailed requirements, which will include collecting passenger details for contact tracing overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
IATA welcomed the U.S. government’s announcement, which had not been anticipated at the start of this week. “This announcement marks a key shift in managing the risks of Covid-19 from blanket considerations at the national level to the assessment of individual risk,” commented the airline industry group’s director-general Willie Walsh. “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.”