The White House on Monday announced a new international air travel system starting in early November, requiring all foreign nationals traveling to the United States to be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination before boarding a U.S. bound plane — ending the separation of some families since March 2020.
The announcement came as President Joe Biden prepared to head to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday and a day before he was to meet at the White House with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who reportedly was expected to call on Biden to ease travel restrictions.
The new system, along with the vaccine requirement, would include stepped-up testing, contact tracing and masking, officials said.
For fully vaccinated international travelers, the 14-day quarantine would go away. The specific vaccines that qualify a traveler as “fully vaccinated” will be determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.
Peter Nicholls/Reuters, FILEA worker sanitizes a sign at the International arrivals area of Terminal 5 in London’s Heathrow Airport, Britain, Aug. 2, 2021.
“This new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID from passengers flying internationally into the United States by requiring adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States be fully vaccinated. It’s based on public health. It requires fully vaccinated individuals. And so this is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so it is a strong system,” Zients said.
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International travelers will have to complete testing and show proof of a negative test within three days of traveling to the U.S. as part of the new plan. However, unvaccinated Americans will be subject to more stringent requirements under the new plan, as they will be required to have a negative test within one day of departure and will be required to be test again upon arriving.
The new plan also outlines expanded contact tracing, which will be issued by the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC will collect contact information of U.S.-bound travelers and share it with state and local public health officials to alert travelers if they have become exposed to COVID-19.
Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images, FILEIn this file photo travelers line up at Miami International Airport (MIA) on Aug. 2, 2021.
The plan also involves continued mask wearing during air travel, a mandate that Biden extended to last until Jan. 18 last month.
“It’s simple: Masking help stop the spread of COVID-19. If you break the rules, be prepared for the consequences,” Zients said.
The administration did not outline any vaccine requirements for domestic travel, though they said aren’t taking any options off the table. The administration hopes that Biden’s recent rule requiring federal workers and businesses to be vaccinated will be help increase vaccination rates in the U.S.
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“We clearly have a track record that shows we’re pulling available levers to require vaccinations and we’re not taking any measures off the table on specific authorities used for implementation,” Zients said.
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