U.S. to ease Covid travel entry rules, require vaccinations for foreign visitors

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will require all international travelers coming into the United States to be fully vaccinated and tested for Covid-19 under a new system that will open up air travel to vaccinated foreign nationals from dozens of countries for the first time since the early days of the pandemic.

Starting in early November, foreign nationals will be allowed to fly into the U.S. if they are fully vaccinated and able to show proof of vaccination prior to boarding a U.S.-bound flight, White House Covid coordinator Jeffrey Zients said.

The requirement will ease travel restrictions that limited entry into the U.S. in many cases for noncitizens who had recently been in 33 countries, including many European nations and the United Kingdom, regardless of vaccination status. But for travelers outside of those countries, the new system will put stricter requirements in place that could be a barrier to those living in countries where vaccines are in short supply.

"We will move to this much stricter global system, so we will have a consistent approach across all countries, it will require foreign nationals to be vaccinated, to prove they're vaccinated, and then to go through the testing and contact tracing regiments," Zients said.

The U.S. will also start putting into place additional testing requirements, he said. Foreign nationals will have to be tested three days prior to departure to the U.S. and show proof of a negative test, and unvaccinated Americans will have to test within one day of departure and be required to test again after their arrival.

The CDC will also require airlines to collect information for each U.S.-bound traveler, including their phone number and email address, to aid public health officials in contact tracing.

While there is still no vaccination requirement for domestic air travel, Zients said nothing is off the table.

"We clearly have a track record that shows we're pulling available levers to acquire vaccinations and we're not taking any measures off the table on specific authorities used for implementation," he said.

Zients didn't detail what vaccines will qualify and what would constitute as fully vaccinated and said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would provide further details. The new policy applies only to air travel and not land border crossings, which have been closed to nonessential travel between Canada and Mexico.

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