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  21 Sep 2021, 09:17

US to end travel bans for vaccinated passengers

  WASHINGTON, Sept 21, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - The United States announced Monday it

will lift Covid travel bans on all air passengers in November if they are
fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing.

  The unprecedented restrictions had kept relatives, friends and business
travelers around the world separated for many months as the pandemic grinds
on.

  Jeffrey Zients, coronavirus response coordinator for President Joe Biden,
told reporters the new "consistent approach" would take effect "early
November."

  The easing of travel restrictions, imposed by Donald Trump 18 months ago as
the Covid-19 pandemic first erupted, marks a significant shift by Biden and
answers a major demand from European allies at a time of strained diplomatic
relations.

  Numerous safeguards will remain in place to suppress spread of the virus,
which has already killed more than 675,000 Americans and is resurgent after
what many had hoped was a lasting dip earlier this year.

  "Most importantly, foreign nationals flying to the US will be required to
be fully vaccinated," Zients said.

  It was not immediately clear if the new rule only applied to US-approved
vaccines or if other brands, such as those produced in China or Russia, would
also qualify. Zients said that would be determined by the US Centers for
Disease Control.

  Restrictions on vehicle movement from Canada and Mexico will remain in
place.

  Zients said passengers will need to show they were fully vaccinated before
boarding planes bound for the United States, as well as providing proof of a
negative Covid-19 test taken within three days.

  Americans not fully vaccinated will still be able to enter, but only on
testing negative within a day of travel.

  Masks will be obligatory on US-bound flights, and airlines will provide the
US health authorities with contact tracing information.

  "This new international travel system follows the science to keep
Americans' international air travel safe," Zients said.

  - 'Great news' -

  The change means many families and friends can be reunited, sometimes after
nearly two years apart.

  Phil White, a British entrepreneur living near San Francisco, told AFP his
daughter plans to finally visit from London in November.

  "As a family we're going to be together for Thanksgiving, which is
amazing," he said, adding that he had not seen his daughter for 18 or 19
months.

  "That has been very, very, very difficult for us, as everyone can imagine,"
White said.

  And British and German officials quickly welcomed the lifting of the near
total ban. The German ambassador to the United States called it "great news."

  "Hugely important to promote people-to-people contacts and transatlantic
business," Ambassador Emily Haber tweeted.

  The announcement was also hailed by airlines, which have taken a huge hit
during the pandemic shutdown.

  The trade group Airlines For Europe predicted "a much-needed boost to
trans-Atlantic traffic & tourism and will reunite families and friends."

  While it had been widely expected that Biden would reopen borders to the
European Union and Britain, the announcement covers the globe.

  "This applies to all international travel," Zients said.

  Currently only US citizens, residents and foreigners with special visas are
allowed to enter the United States from most European countries.

  In an interview in Washington with AFP, Thierry Breton, European
commissioner for internal market, said he was hopeful the policy will be
extended to include the AstraZeneca shot used by many European nations, which
has not been approved by US health authorities.

  Breton said he spoke with Zients, who "sounded positive and optimistic."

  The restriction has deeply irked EU and British authorities. On Monday, the
European Union recommended that member states reimpose restrictions on
American travelers who had earlier been free to enter if vaccinated.

  Breton said the restrictions "no longer made any sense," given Europe's
high vaccination rates.

  Biden's move comes on the eve of his speech to the annual UN General
Assembly in New York, where the pandemic is due to be the headline issue.

  It also comes as Washington and Paris spar bitterly over Australia's sudden
announcement that it will acquire US-built nuclear submarines as part of a
new defense alliance, ditching a previous French contract for conventionally
powered submarines.

  "This is really driven by the science," a State Department official said,
denying the travel decision was an attempt to smooth ruffled French feathers.

 

 

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