Airlines reacted positively to the surprise move by the United States government on Monday to withdraw a total ban on many international tourists imposed more than 18 months ago at the start of the Covid outbreak.
Beginning in early November fully vaccinated passengers from Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India, and Iran will be permitted to the United States with documentation of full immunization and a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure.
European governments, in particular, have been aggressively campaigning since the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) relaxed restrictions on vaccinated American tourists in June.
However, the EU has recently urged that member states implement new limitations in response to increased infection rates of the Delta form of Covid in the United States.
The Biden Administration did not identify a specific date for the easing of restrictions when it announced the policy change on September 20.
According to White House Covid response coordinator Jeff Zients, the new policy will go into effect in “early November” to give airlines and the travel industry time to prepare for detailed requirements such as collecting passenger information for contact tracing overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
IATA welcomed the U.S. government’s announcement, which had not been anticipated at the start of this week.
“This announcement marks a key shift in managing the risks of Covid-19 from blanket considerations at the national level to the assessment of individual risk,” commented the airline industry group’s director-general Willie Walsh. “The next challenge is finding a system to manage the risks for travelers who do not have access to vaccinations.
Testing appears to be a viable strategy based on the data. However, governments must also speed the worldwide rollout of vaccines and agree on a global framework for travel in which testing resources are concentrated on unvaccinated travelers.
We must return to a scenario in which everyone has the freedom to travel.”