The Biden administration announced Monday a new system to allow all fully vaccinated foreign nationals to once again fly to the United States after months of debate surrounding America's COVID-19 travel restrictions.
White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said the new system "includes strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying into the United States, protecting Americans and making international air travel safer."
"International travel is critical to connecting families and friends to fueling small and large businesses to promoting the open exchange ideas and culture," he continued.
The new system, which will go into effect in early November, covers three specific actions, including:
Requiring all fully vaccinated foreign nationals to show proof of vaccination and negative tests within three days of departure to the U.S.
Requiring passengers to provide contact tracing information that complies with guidance to be released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the coming weeks
Requiring passengers on incoming international flights to wear masks for the duration of the flight and directing the Transportation Security Administration to increase fines for mask noncompliance
Fielding questions from reporters following the announcement, Zients implied that the CDC might not approve foreign nationals who have received certain vaccines for travel but did not elaborate on which vaccines would or would not make the cut.
Zients also stated that the actions covering contact tracing and providing proof of vaccines and negative tests would not extend to domestic flights, but the increased fines for mask noncompliance would.
"We believe that vaccination requirements at workplaces are very effective and an efficient way to ensure people are vaccinated for tests," he explained. "And I want to point out that verifying the workplace does not place an ongoing burden on vaccinated people."
The White House's announcement came after weeks of inaction and confusion regarding the timeline for lifting COVID-19 travel restrictions for incoming foreign nationals. The European Union lifted restrictions on vaccinated U.S. citizens traveling to Europe early in the summer, but the action was not immediately reciprocated by the U.S.
Zients claimed Monday that the administration decided to keep the restrictions in place in order to wait for the global vaccination rate to increase.
"Today, nearly 6 billion shots have been administered globally and dozens of countries have strong vaccination rates," he added. "Vaccines continue to show that they're highly effective."
"The new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for passengers flying internationally into the U.S.," Zients said in closing. "And this individual-based rather than country-based approach to risk is the right system going forward."
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Original Author: Christian Datoc