COVID-19: US to relax travel rules for vaccinated passengers from UK and EU

·4-min read

Watch: US to relax travel rules for vaccinated passengers from UK and EU

Vaccinated passengers will be able to enter the US from the UK and EU from November, ending almost two years of coronavirus travel restrictions.

The new rules would be part of broader policy changes for international travel and will apply to fully jabbed people - meaning those who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

All foreign travellers will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of the flight.

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It will end an 18-month patchwork of travel restrictions imposed by former president Donald Trump at the start of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is delighted that President Joe Biden is "reinstating transatlantic travel".

He added: "It's a fantastic boost for business and trade, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again."

Speaking in New York, Boris Johnson was questioned by Sky's political editor Beth Rigby over his previous comments that we shouldn't 'hold our breath' on the lifting of US travel ban - suggesting he wasn't expecting the announcement.

When asked whether he had been caught out by the US president acting unilaterally, Mr Johnson insisted "we've done it faster than we expected".

Addressing the House of Commons, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "In 2020 the only weapon we had to fight the spread of COVID was simply to keep people apart."

But as one "of the world's most vaccinated countries", with more than eight out of 10 people now jabbed, he says that "we must use that to our advantage to restore freedoms that were by necessity lost over the past 18 months".

He continued: "Vaccinated Britons will be able to travel into the US from early November, reciprocating the policy that we introduced this summer and this is a testament to the hard work and progress of the expert working group set up at the G7 to restart transatlantic travel."

Vaccines, he said, "mean the emphasis can now shift to an individual's status instead".

Newly-appointed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted: "Excellent news for travellers from the UK to the US. Important for our economic recovery, families and trade."

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British ambassador to the United States, Karen Pierce, said: "We are grateful the US has recognised the progress the UK has made against COVID-19, including high vaccination rates and declining cases.

"This decision means that more Brits can reunite with loved ones in the United States, more British holidaymakers can spend their hard-earned pounds in the American tourism sector, and more business activity can boost both of our economies."

However, President Biden will tighten rules for unvaccinated American citizens, who now need to be tested within a day of their departure from the US as well as on their return.

Those fully vaccinated will not need to quarantine.

Airlines will be required to collect contacting tracing information - including phone numbers and email addresses - from international travellers.

Following the announcements, companies reliant on international travel saw their shares rise. Aeroplane engine maker Rolls-Royce saw shares climb by 5%, while SSP, whose brands such as Upper Crust and Ritazza operate at transport hubs, rose 6%.

In Europe, Air-France KLM and Lufthansa also enjoyed a share price bounce.

And easyJet, despite not being a transatlantic aviation player, nonetheless saw sharp gains, jumping by 9%.

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said it was a "historic moment".

"Our customers should now feel that the world is reopening to them and they can book their trips with confidence," he added.

The changes only effect air travel, with the order restricting overland travel from Canada and Mexico still in place and reviewed on a monthly basis.

Announcing the new US policy on travel, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said: "This is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so it's a stronger system."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will decide which vaccines are acceptable under the US system and whether those unapproved in America could be used, he added.

Under the previous policy, only American citizens, their immediate families, or green card holders could enter the US from the UK or EU.

However, the American government had the power to grant national interest exemptions to allow people to travel.

The US also banned travel for anyone who had been in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, or India, 14 days prior to arriving in the country.

In July, the UK waived quarantine requirements for fully-vaccinated arrivals from the US.

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