U.S. BORDERS REOPENING : LIFTING RESTRICTIONS FOR FULLY VACCINATED

After nearly 19 months, the U.S. borders reopening to vaccinated travelers on November 8, 2021. However, those who haven’t been vaccinated – excluding minors or those exempt under religious or medical reasons – still won’t be eligible to enter the country for non-essential reasons. The development is part of the Biden administration announcements in recent weeks to end stringent requirements for travelers coming to the U.S. from Europe, South Africa, Brazil, China, and India, put into effect by the predecessor, but testing requirements will remain intact. Travel restrictions eased in the United States at the beginning of October 2021, with fully vaccinated land and ferry travelers from Mexico and Canada allowed to enter the U.S. beginning November 2021.

VACCINE REQUIREMENTS: DETAILS AND EXEMPTIONS

According to the data from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine almost 58.13% of the total population in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a brief update online about the November 8 reopening, stating that, ‘For purposes of entry into the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA approved or authorized and WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccines.’ The CDC also highlighted that mixed vaccine doses will also be accepted for international travelers. People with “any combination” of two doses of a vaccine approved by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization “are considered fully vaccinated,” the agency mentioned in a statement.

On October 25, 2021, the White House also confirmed that children under 18 would be exempt from the new vaccine requirements as are people with some medical issues. Non-tourist travelers from about 50 countries with nationwide vaccination rates of less than 10% will also be eligible for exemption from the rules. Those receiving an exemption will generally need to be vaccinated if they intend to remain in the United States for more than 60 days.

CHANGING TIDE FOR THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY?

With the U.S. borders reopening around the corner, the Biden administration detailed new international COVID-19 air travel policies such as checking the traveler’s vaccination status before they can board departing planes. It also included an exemption for kids and consisted of a new federal contact tracing requirement where airlines will be required to verify records of passengers and match them against identity information.

Airlines for America a trade group that advocates building crucial policies and measures that promote safety, security, and a healthy U.S. airline industry; praised the administration’s decision. “We have seen an increase in ticket sales for international travel over the past weeks, and are eager to begin safely reuniting the countless families, friends, and colleagues who have not seen each other in nearly two years, if not longer.”

The U.S. borders reopening news is being lauded by the travel industry, with the expectation that the relaxed restrictions will boost leisure tourism. “U.S. Travel has long called for the safe reopening of our borders, and we welcome the Biden administration’s announcement of a set date to welcome back vaccinated international travelers,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. As for the travel industry, this will accelerate the return of the inbound travel demand that was suspended due to travel restrictions.