Vaccine requirements are a no-brainer to reopen U.S. borders to the rest of the world. But don't expect this to happen overnight — the Delta variant is still a major headwind and concern to those who have to approve any kind of reopening.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday the United States is developing a “new system for international travel” that will include new strong mitigation procedures like contact tracing.
Zients told the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board the administration does not plan to immediately relax any travel restrictions because of COVID-19 Delta variant cases.
“We are exploring considering vaccination requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States,” Zients said.
Reuters first reported early in August that the White House was developing vaccine requirements that could cover nearly all foreign visitors.
The extraordinary U.S. travel restrictions were first imposed on China in January 2020 to address the spread of COVID-19. Numerous other countries have been added, most recently India, in May.
The administration wanted to lift travel restrictions “as soon as we can,” Zients said, adding it was “working now to be ready to replace the current restrictions with a new system for international travel that is safer, stronger and sustainable.”
The United States currently bars most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
It separately bars non-essential travel by most non-U.S. citizens at U.S. land borders with Mexico and Canada.
Many critics of the restrictions say they no longer make sense because some countries with high rates of COVID-19 infections are not on the restricted list while some countries on the list have the pandemic under control.
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Photo credit: The U.S. is leaning toward a vaccine mandate as a requirement to reopen borders to international travelers. Jonathan Cutrer / Flickr