New COVID rules for international flights don't just impact foreign tourists: What US travelers need to know
Airlines, tourism officials, European leaders and overseas travelers planning to visit the US hailed the government's plan announced Monday to reopen the country's borders in early November with strict entry requirements for COVID-19.
The White House bills it as a new "international air travel system," but the changes, ranging from vaccination and testing requirements to contact tracing, will put an end to an international travel ban from dozens of countries in place since March 2020.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had urged the United States, among other things, to relax entry requirements for vaccinated travelers, tweeted on Monday that he was "pleased" with the news.
What does this all mean for overseas travelers and American citizens? White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said there are still some details to be worked out before the new rules go into effect in early November.
Here's what we know so far about the changes to the international travel ban:
When will the US lift the international travel ban?
The new entry requirements that apply to air travelers flying to the United States from any other country - not just those falling under the travel ban announced by former President Donald Trump earlier last year - will come into force in early November. The White House didn't reveal a specific date, but said it would take time for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, airlines, and others to iron out the details.
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What are the new entry requirements for travelers boarding flights to the United States?
The biggest hurdle for foreigners: you have to be fully vaccinated to visit. This includes visitors from countries outside the current ban like Mexico who are allowed to visit the US today by showing a negative COVID-19 test.
Airlines will ask for proof of vaccination before boarding. The U.S. is likely to accept World Health Organization emergency-approved vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Covishield, CoronaVac, and Sinopharm vaccines, according to Sarah Morgenthau, assistant assistant travel secretary for the Department of Commerce and Tourism. She added that "more details" will be released at a later date.
Foreign nationals are also required to present a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days prior to departure, a requirement that has been in place for all passengers traveling to the United States, including vaccinated Americans, since January.
Unvaccinated Americans face stricter testing requirements. (The CDC has recommended that unvaccinated Americans avoid international travel for months.)
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Travelers will arrive at Miami International Airport on September 20, 2021.
Do American citizens need to be vaccinated to board international flights to the United States?
American citizens are not required to provide proof of vaccination to board international flights home to the United States, but they are still required to present a negative coronavirus test that was taken no more than three days prior to departure.
Unvaccinated Americans will have to take a COVID-19 test the day before departure - instead of the three-day requirement today - and provide evidence that they will need to take a second test upon arrival, Zients said. White House press secretary Jen Psaki failed to specify what kind of evidence it is in a briefing Monday.
Are Unvaccinated Children Exempt from US Entry Requirements?
Psaki said unvaccinated children of U.S. citizens and foreigners are subject to the stricter new testing requirements. Nowadays, children 2 years and older boarding US international flights are required to demonstrate a negative test three days prior to boarding.
White House officials say limited exemptions could be added for children, but no decisions have been made.
What is CDC contact tracing and how will it affect US passengers?
The new US entry regulations also require a "strong contract tracking system," as Zients put it.
Airlines must collect personal information, including a phone number and email, from travelers traveling to the United States, regardless of whether they are US citizens or foreign nationals. You must keep this information for 30 days in the event a passenger is exposed to someone with COVID-19.
"The CDC will issue a contract tracking mandate that will require airlines to request full information for every passenger entering the US and promptly provide that information to the CDC upon request," said Psaki.
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Do passengers on international flights to the US need to be quarantined upon arrival?
No. However, the CDC recommends unvaccinated Americans traveling internationally to self-quarantine for seven days, even if they test negative for the coronavirus on their return home.
Are there any upcoming vaccination requirements for domestic flights in the US?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House's senior medical advisor and the country's foremost infectious disease expert, made headlines this month when he said he supported a vaccine mandate for domestic flights amid President Joe Biden's efforts to increase vaccinations.
Airlines say it would be a logistical nightmare given the volume of air traffic in the country.
On Monday, Zients reiterated previous comments that nothing had been ruled out in the fight against COVID-19.
"We clearly have a track record of pulling the levers available to require vaccinations and not taking any action off the table," he said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USA Ease International Travel Restrictions: What You Need To Know
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