The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is welcoming the decision by the Biden Administration to enable vaccinated travellers to enter the U.S. with a negative COVID-19 test result prior to travel from early November.
The announcement, made yesterday (Sept. 20), supersedes the so-called “212f restrictions” which prevented anyone from entering the U.S. if they had been in 33 specific countries including the UK, Ireland, all Schengen countries, Brazil, South Africa, India, and China within the last 14 days.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, called the news “a major step forward.”
“Allowing access to the U.S. for those vaccinated will open travel to the U.S. for many who have been locked out for the past 18 months,” Walsh said. “This is excellent news for families and loved ones who have suffered through the heartache and loneliness of separation.”
“It’s good for the millions of livelihoods in the U.S. that depend on global tourism. And it will boost the economic recovery by enabling some key business travel markets.”
Though questions remain on how the update will influence the reopening of the land borders the U.S. shares with Canada and Mexico, as well as which vaccines the U.S. will allow (will AstraZeneca count?), the new policy marks a “key shift” in managing the risks of COVID-19.
It shifts from “blanket considerations at the national level” to assessment of individual risk, Walsh said.
“The next challenge is finding a system to manage the risks for travellers who do not have access to vaccinations,” he said. “Data points to testing as a solution. But it is also critical that governments accelerate the global rollout of vaccines and agree a global framework for travel where testing resources are focused on unvaccinated travellers.”
“We must get back to a situation where the freedom to travel is available to all.”
Julia Simpson, president & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), called the White House’s announcement “welcome news” on Monday as it will restore transatlantic travel between the EU and the U.K.
“It will finally enable families to reunite, business travellers to resume face-to-face meetings and events, and for travel and tourism to return providing a major boost to these economies,” Simpson said.
Visitors from the EU to the U.S. contributed more than $35 billion to the economy in 2019, and UK visitors more than $11 billion, she pointed out.
“WTTC has long-been calling for the U.S. to reopen and our research shows that this measure could pump US$198 million back into the U.S. economy every single day,” Simpson said.
“WTTC strongly advocates for fully vaccinated citizens to be able to travel freely and safely, irrespective of where they’re travelling from.”