U.S. officials are working on a "new system for international travel" that will include contact tracing for when the time comes to ease travel restrictions which, to a great degree, still bar most of the world from entering the country, Reuters reported on Thursday (Sept. 16).
"The American people need to trust that the new system for international travel is safer even as we - I mean at that point - we'll be letting in more travellers," White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients was quoted as saying, speaking to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board yesterday.
The U.S. will, in due time, replace its existing travel restrictions, Zients said, adding that the U.S. is "exploring considering vaccination requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States.”
There are no immediate plans to ease travel restrictions to rising COVID-19 Delta variant cases in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe, Zients noted.
U.S. travel restrictions were first implemented in January 2020 in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Numerous countries are on the United States’ advisory list – the country 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, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
Canadians, however, have been allowed to enter the U.S. by air during the pandemic (but the U.S. land border shared with Canada and Mexico remains closed to non-essential travel).
Reuters reports that there’s a fear within the travel industry that the Biden administration may not lift travel restrictions for months or even until 2022.
The new system U.S. officials are working on will reportedly include collecting contact tracing data from passengers travelling into the U.S so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can contact travellers if they are exposed to COVID-19.
This was something the Trump administration, in 2020, blocked amid efforts to require airlines to collect tracing information from U.S.-bound international passengers after officials cited privacy concerns.
In August, Canada, for the first time in 17 months, began allowing fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents of the United States to enter for non-essential travel and skip quarantine.
Eligible visitors must live in the U.S. and be fully vaccinated, with a Health Canada-approved vaccine, for at least 14 days.
Americans – entering Canada by both land and air – must also show proof of a negative 72-hour molecular COVID-19 test and use the ArriveCAN app, or this online web portal, to upload their vaccination documents.