The U.S. will lift travel restrictions for foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated, with the administration targeting early November for foreign travel to resume for the first time in more than a year.
The head of the White House’s Covid-19 Response Team, Jeff Zients, announced Monday that foreign nationals must show proof of vaccination and proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken three days prior to boarding an airplane. Zients said the Center for Disease and Prevention will determine which vaccines will be accepted.
“This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans and international air travel safe,” Zients said. “By requiring foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated in order to fly to the United States and in implementing additional strict safety protocols, we will protect Americans here at home and enhance the safety of international travel.”
“This is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach,” he added.
Zients said in coming days, the CDC will issue a contact tracing order that will require airlines to collect information from U.S.-bound travelers, including their phone number and email address to act as a “public health surveillance system.” That will give the CDC, state and local health officials the ability to follow up with travelers if they have potentially been exposed to Covid or other diseases.
Last week, the agency filed a notice with the Office of Management and Budget to collect and transmit information for passengers and crew arriving in the U.S. A decision is pending review. Zients said the system will allow officials to keep this information for 30 days but that specifics are still being finalized.
Additionally, any unvaccinated Americans returning to the U.S. will be subject to stricter testing requirements, Zients said. “They will need to test within one day of departure and will be required to test again post their arrival.”
The news has been highly anticipated within the airline and travel industry which have attempted to make inroads amid the pandemic and have expressed frustration over protocols that often vary from country to country.
Airlines for America, the trade group for the major U.S. airlines, for example, has publicly called for a science-based framework to accelerate reinstituting international travel.
“What’s hindering travel right now? Travel restrictions,” Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president of legislative and regulatory policy for A4A, said in a previous interview with POLITICO. “We have been asking for a road map that would essentially say, ‘This, this is the criteria.’”
“What we would like to see is a global standard so there isn’t this patchwork of rules and restrictions. Some countries require proof of vaccine, others require a vaccine and a test result,” Pinkerton said.
She continued, “We think that [standard] would make the most sense and would cause the least confusion. We will continue to advocate; we’re not just saying, ‘Get rid of all travel restrictions.’ We’re saying, ‘Pick the criteria that makes sense to safely remove travel restrictions.’”