After an 18 month ban on UK travelers, the United States of America is finally opening its borders to their neighbors across the pond.
The move, which was met with a mix of excitement and uncertainty, comes after the United States began to relax entry rules for a number of different countries. The most recent were the easing of land border restrictions with Mexico and Canada.
Travelers who are planning to take advantage of their US visa from the UK can expect to do so on November 8, which is the reported ‘opening day’ for the United States.
The original travel restrictions were imposed at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic by Donald Trump in a bid to stop the spread of the virus. At the moment, the United States currently prohibits non-US citizens from more than 30 countries, such as those from the UK, Europe, China, Brazil, and India, from entering the country.
The previous system, which cited the volatile nature of the pandemic and the emergence of the Delta variant as reasons for banning certain countries from entering, was often the cause of contentment for many European governments and leaders. Some even noted that countries with higher case totals were not on the travel ban list.
Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, noted that all foreign visitors will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and show proof of vaccination before they are allowed to board an airline bound for the United States.
Those who are entering the country via an airplane must also show a negative test result that was taken no more than 72 hours before boarding.
As mentioned, the United States will only accept foreign visitors who have been vaccinated, while those who have not gotten their jab will not be allowed for the time being.
It was not immediately clear which vaccines will be accepted under the new entry rules. In fact, one of the most important questions was if travelers who were jabbed with AstraZeneca (which includes more than 25 million British citizens) would be allowed into the US.
Zients noted that the administration will leave that question to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to determine which vaccines qualify for entry.
However, many believe that the government would allow those who have been inoculated with one of the vaccines that was approved by the US FDA or have been granted an Emergency Use status from the World Health Organization (WHO) to enter the US.
At the moment, the WHO has 7 approved vaccines for use, including Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, AstraZeneca, CoviShield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac. Other popular alternatives, such as Russia’s Sputnik V and Germany’s CureVac, are still pending acceptance.
One of the hallmarks of the new entry requirements is strict contact tracing and hygiene measures. Zients stated that the government is in the process of creating a program to track visitors, which includes airlines collecting passengers’ email addresses and phone numbers.
These airlines will keep the contact information for up to 30 days and, in the rare case someone was declared sick with the coronavirus, the government can swifty notify them so that they may self-isolate in a timely manner.
Mr Zients added, “That will allow the CDC to follow up if someone around them has tested positive.”
The new entry rules would be rolled out in different phases, although the White House noted that they are still working on finalizing the details and the requirements for each phase.
The original travel ban did not apply to US citizens, residents, and diplomats, as it would be a ‘breach of national interest.’
Likewise, citizens of the United States were granted entry to Europe just in time for tourist season this past summer. The European Union allowed individual member states to set their own entry requirements in order to facilitate safe travel and keep cases low.
For example, France opened its borders to US tourists in mid-June, allowing both vaccinated travelers to enter without any requirements, while unvaccinated travelers needed a negative PCR or antigen test.
Traveling back to the United States also proved to be convenient, as American citizens only needed to provide a negative PCR or antigen test to enter.
Many foreign dignitaries welcomed the move, including the European Commission, which noted,
“We welcome the US announcement that fully vaccinated EU travellers will soon be able to travel to the US again. A long-awaited step for separated families and friends, and good news for business,” it said in a tweet.
The British Ambassador to the United States, Dame Karen Pierce, also noted: “Today’s travel announcement is great news for families and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.
She continued, “This decision means that more Brits can reunite with loved ones in the United States, more British holidaymakers can spend their hard-earned pounds in the American tourism sector, and more business activity can boost both of our economies.”