Friday, October 15, 2021

US eases virus restrictions for foreign flights to the US

by zeke miller

WASHINGTON (AP) – In a major easing of pandemic travel restrictions, the US said on Monday it would allow foreigners to fly into the country this fall if they have vaccination proof and a negative COVID-19 test. – The change in place of a hodgepodge of rules in Europe and beyond where virus cases are low, excluded many non-citizens and irritable allies.

The changes, which take effect in November, are separated by 18 months of travel restrictions to allow families and others to plan long-awaited reunification and to allow foreigners with work permits to return to their jobs in the US.

Airlines, business groups and travelers rejoiced – though also called the move long overdue.

“It’s a happy day. Big apple, here I come!” Stephen Le Breton, 45, said French entrepreneur, is finally able to book a trip to New York City that was put on hold over virus restrictions.

The new policy will replace a patchwork of travel restrictions first instituted by President Donald Trump last year and tightened by President Joe Biden, which restricts travel by non-citizens to the United Kingdom, in the first 14 days. EU, China, India. , Iran, Republic of Ireland, Brazil or South Africa.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Ziants announced new policies that require all foreign travelers still traveling to the US to show proof of vaccination before boarding, as well as a negative COVID-19 test within three days of flight proof must be given. Biden will also tighten testing rules for unvaccinated US citizens, who will need to be tested before returning to the US as well as within a day of arriving home.

The tougher rules for non-vaccinated Americans come as the White House has moved to enforce broader immunization-or-testing requirements, in an effort to encourage holdouts to get the shots to more than 100 million people. affects.

Zients said that travelers who are fully vaccinated will not need to be quarantined.

There will be no immediate change to US land border policies, which restrict cross-border travel with Mexico and Canada.

The travel restrictions had become a source of growing geopolitical frustration, particularly among allies in the UK and the European Union. The easing comes ahead of Biden’s meeting with some European leaders on the margins of the UN General Assembly this week.

“It’s based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so it’s a robust system,” Ziants said.

The EU and UK had already moved to allow vaccinations to US travelers without quarantine in an effort to boost trade and tourism. But the European Union recommended last month that some travel restrictions be reimposed on American travelers due to the large-scale spread of the delta version of the coronavirus in the US.

Ziants said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would require airlines to collect contact information from international passengers.

It was not immediately clear which vaccines would be acceptable under the US system and whether unapproved vaccines could be used in the US. Zients said the decision would be up to the CDC.

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Monday’s announcement was met with applause by the air travel industry, which has lost significant revenue from a decline in international travel.

Morgan Durant, a Delta Air Lines spokeswoman, said: “Science tells us that vaccination with testing is the safest way to reopen travel, and we are optimistic that this important decision will allow continued economic recovery and reintegration in the US and abroad.” The number of families that are separated for more than 18 months.”

Worldwide, air travel is still more than halfway below pre-pandemic levels, and the decline is too steep for cross-border flight. As of July, domestic travel had reached 84% of 2019 numbers, but international travel was just 26% in the same month two years ago, according to data this month from the International Air Transport Association, the airline industry’s main global trade group.

According to Airlines for America, the numbers are similar, but not as high as for the US, where international travel in August was up 46% in August 2019. Arrivals by non-US citizens were only 36% of 2019 levels.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “delighted” by the news. He added: “It’s a wonderful boost to trade and business, and it’s great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can once again meet.”

Airlines called America’s decision a lifeline for the struggling industry. Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines UK, said it was “a huge success.”

Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Officer Shai Weiss said it was “a major milestone. … The UK is now our most important economic partner, strengthening ties with the US, promoting trade and tourism as well as friends , will be able to reunite families and business associates.”

“The travel restrictions were really behind the times,” said Maka Hutson, a lawyer specializing in immigration issues at the law firm Akin Gump. He said they were ‘very disappointing for European officials’ who had been vaccinated but still could not go to the United States to do business.

The changes also drew praise from business groups, which are grappling with labor shortages as the economy bounces back from last year’s coronavirus slowdown with unexpected strength. American employers are posting job openings — a record 10.9 million in July — faster than applicants can fill them.

Myron Brilliant, US “Allowing vaccinated foreign nationals to travel freely in the United States will spur a strong and sustainable recovery for the US economy,” the Chamber of Commerce for International Affairs said in a statement.

AP writers Jill Lawless in London, Thomas Adamson-Kombouzis in Paris, Paul Wiseman in Washington and David Koenig in Dallas contributed.

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