US President Joe Biden speaks in Kearny, New Jersey, the US, October 25 2021. Picture: STEPHANIE KEITH/BLOOMBERG
US President Joe Biden speaks in Kearny, New Jersey, the US, October 25 2021. Picture: STEPHANIE KEITH/BLOOMBERG

Washington  —  US President Joe Biden on Monday signed an order imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national air travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions on China, India and much of Europe effective on November 8, the White House said.

The extraordinary US travel restrictions were first imposed in early 2020 to address the spread of Covid-19. The rules bar most non-US citizens who within the past 14 days have been in the UK, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, SA, Iran and Brazil.

“It is in the interests of the US to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the Covid-19 pandemic and to adopt an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the US,” Biden’s proclamation says.

The White House confirmed that children under 18 are exempt from the new vaccine requirements as are people with some medical issues. Non-tourist travellers 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 US for more than 60 days.

The White House first disclosed on September 20 it would remove restrictions in early November for fully vaccinated air travellers from 33 countries.

The Biden administration also detailed requirements airlines must follow to confirm foreign travellers have been vaccinated before boarding US-bound flights.

One concern among US officials and airlines is making sure foreign travellers are aware of the new vaccine rules that will take effect in just two weeks.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is issuing on Monday new contact tracing rules requiring airlines to collect information from international air passengers as needed “to follow up with travellers who have been exposed to Covid-19 variants or other pathogens.”

The CDC said this month it would accept any vaccine authorised for use by US regulators or the World Health Organization (WHO) and will accept mixed-dose coronavirus vaccines  from travellers.

Foreign air travellers will need to provide vaccination documentation from an “official source” and airlines must confirm the last dose was at least two weeks earlier than the travel date.

International air travellers will need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. The White House said unvaccinated Americans and foreign nationals receiving exemptions will need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test within 24 hours of departing.

Reuters 

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