QCOSTARICA – The Biden administration is developing a plan to require nearly all foreign visitors to the United States to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of eventually lifting travel restrictions that bar much of the world from entering the United States, a White House press secretary Jen Psaki told Reuters on Wednesday, August 4, 2021.
The White House wants to re-open travel, which would boost business for the airlines and tourism industry, but is not prepared to immediately lift travel limitations due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, the official said. The Biden administration has inter-institutional working groups working “in order to have a new system ready for when we can reopen travel,” the official said.
“A gradual approach that will eventually mean, with limited exceptions, that foreigners traveling to the United States (of all countries) have to be fully vaccinated,” the official added.
Last month, Reuters reported that the White House was considering requiring foreign visitors to be vaccinated as part of discussions on how to relax travel restrictions.
The official added that “the working groups are developing a policy and a planning process to be prepared for when the time is right to transition to this new system.”
Some countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, are relaxing or lifting restrictions for vaccinated Americans to travel.
Costa Rica, starting August 1, 2021, eliminated the requirement for covid insurance for visitors who are fully vaccinated.
The White House said it has been in talks with airlines and others about how it would implement a policy of requiring vaccinations for foreign visitors. There are other questions the government must answer, including what proof it would accept of vaccination and whether the United States would admit vaccines that some countries are using but have not yet been licensed by US regulators.
A few days ago, the Biden administration had confirmed that in the short term it will maintain the restrictions currently in force for international travel despite pressure from the European Union (EU), despite cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus are increasing in the country and around the world.
“We are going to maintain the existing restrictions,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday. “The more contagious Delta variant is spreading both here and abroad,” she stated. She added that the trend of increasing cases is likely to continue “in the coming weeks,” reiterating that it mainly affects unvaccinated people.
In its latest warnings, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended avoiding travel to Spain and Portugal, two popular destinations for American tourists, due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.
The United States issued the same recommendation for Cyprus a week after traveling to Britain, the top international destination for Americans after Mexico and Canada in 2019.
The United States has restricted travel from the EU, Britain, China and Iran for more than a year due to the pandemic, then added other countries, including Brazil and India.
In June, the European Union opened up to travelers from the United States, generally demanding a vaccination certificate or negative tests for the virus, under pressure from tourism-dependent nations such as Greece, Spain and Italy, which feared another troubled year.
The United States makes widespread exceptions, including students, academics, journalists and businessmen, but European leaders have complained that the regulations make ordinary people uncomfortable and hamper transatlantic trade.
With information from Reuters.