Biden administration details looser international travel rules for vaccinated flyers

“The airlines will and will continue to check vaccination status the same way they have before, with negative Covid test results before departure,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters on Monday.

Individuals under the age of 18 are exempt from these requirements, mainly due to the limited availability or approval of Covid-19 vaccines for children in much of the world. Children aged 2 and over must have a negative Covid test before their flight.

The US first outlined upcoming international travel rules for fully vaccinated people in mid-September.

“We have taken the deliberate step of taking this time to ensure that implementation goes as smoothly as possible, especially with such far-reaching measures,” a second senior administrator told reporters on Monday.

The rules also include an exception for people from a country with limited vaccine availability, which the Biden government defines as a place where less than 10 percent of the population is fully vaccinated “for lack of vaccines,” according to one high-level administration officially. There are around 50 countries that fall below this threshold, including much of Africa.

That official added, however, that unvaccinated individuals who qualify must provide evidence of a “specific, compelling” reason to travel to the US and test negative the day before their flight. Any child traveling with an unvaccinated adult must also have a negative test within the same amount of time.

Unvaccinated U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents must show a negative test one day prior to boarding, rather than three days. Fully vaccinated people still have three days to get tested.

There are a handful of other narrow exemptions from compulsory vaccination, for example for foreigners who have had severe allergic reactions to a previous dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

Travelers to the United States are also required to provide airlines with information such as phone numbers and email addresses so that health officials can conduct contact tracing when travelers may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The announcement of the new rules comes days before President Joe Biden’s planned trip to Europe for a series of summits with other global leaders as well as Pope Francis.

The U.S. is expected to reopen land and ferry crossings to fully vaccinated travelers on the same day as air travel rules, November 8th. The borders have been closed to non-essential, discretionary travel since March 2020 and have become a major cause of frustration within the Canadian government and among US elected officials representing communities along the northern border in recent months.

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