By Anita Powell
The United States will soon reopen its air borders for fully vaccinated foreign visitors who have one of three approved COVID-19 vaccines or who can present a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of travel, the White House announced Monday.
The new rules take effect Nov. 8, and “only limited exceptions” will be allowed, senior Biden administration officials said during a background briefing with reporters. Those include vaccine exemptions for travelers from about 50 countries with exceptionally low vaccination rates, which include some of the world’s poorest nations, many of those in Africa. Children under the age of 18 are also exempt from the vaccine requirement at this time, but will still have to present a negative test.
Accepted vaccines only include the three approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:: Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
Exemptions will include “certain COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants, those with medical contraindications to the vaccines, and those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons,” the White House said. Additionally, those who are granted an exception must agree to be vaccinated in the U.S. if they intend to stay for more than 60 days.
“The new system also includes enhanced testing requirements, strengthening contact tracing, as well as masking,”a senior administration official said. ”These are strict safety protocols that follow the science and public health to enhance the safety of Americans here at home, and the safety of international air travel.”
In 2019, nearly 80 million international visitors came to the U.S., according to data from the U.S. Travel Association. That figure cratered in early 2020, when the pandemic hit and the administration of former President Donald Trump imposed restrictions that barred tens of thousands of travelers from most of the world.
Unvaccinated air passengers — including unvaccinated U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents — will now need to provide a negative test within one day of departure. Children under two years old will not need to test, and accommodations will be allowed for people who have documented their recovery from the virus within the last 90 days.