The United States will ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nationals visiting the country as early as November.
Then-President Donald Trump initially limited travel from China before banning countries from the Schengen Zone, as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland. President Joe Biden’s administration has maintained these tight restrictions put in place in the early days of the pandemic.
The announcement comes during a time when tensions between the United States and Europe are at a high. Many European leaders have expressed frustration about the United States’ exit from Afghanistan. Similarly, France recalled its ambassadors to both the United States and Australia last week after Mr Biden announced a nuclear-powered submarine deal with the United Kingdom and Australia.
Mr Biden did not take questions on the travel updates or about France when he touched down on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday.
The European Union had initially said it was safe to travel to the United States but later removed it from the “White List” of destinations, along with five other countries.
White House pandemic coordinator Jeff Zients told reportersthat he expects fully vaccinated Europeans to be able to fly to the United States staring in “early November”.
“International travel is critical to connecting families and friends, to fueling small and large businesses, to promoting the open exchange ideas and culture,” Mr Zients told reporters. “That’s why, with science and public health as our guide, we have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel.”
Mr Zients added that unvaccinated Americans who want to travel back to the United States will have to test negative for the coronavirus the day before they travel to the country and be tested after they arrive.
The announcement comes on the eve of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visiting the United States. Mr Johnson is expected to pressure Mr Biden to make an “impassioned case” for allowing fully vaccinated Britons to be allowed into the United States.
The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention is also slated to unveil a contact tracing order that would require airlines to collect information on travelers heading to the United States and that the airlines will need to hold this information for 30 days.
“This will enable CDC and state and local public health officials to follow up with inbound travelers and those around them if someone has potentially been exposed to Covid-19 and other pathogens,” Mr Zients told reporters.
Similarly, Mr Zients said the president has doubled the fines for not wearing a mask on airplanes.