The US on Monday announced a new international travel system under which fully vaccinated individuals would be allowed to enter the country beginning in November.
This essentially also lifts the travel ban on countries like India that the US had earlier enforced. Former president Donald Trump had imposed a blanket ban on foreign travellers from entering the US at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.
Vaccinated people from countries like India can now travel to the US with proof of their vaccination before they start flying for the United States, White House officials said.
"Today we're announcing a new international air travel system. This new system includes strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying into the United States, protecting Americans and making international air travel safer," White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters during a virtual news conference.
The United States, he said, with science and public health as its guide, has developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel.
"Most importantly, beginning in early November, foreign nationals flying to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and they must show proof of vaccination prior to boarding a US bound airplane," he said.
Responding to a question on the existing quarantine requirements and travel ban from countries like India, Brazil, United Kingdom, China, Iran and South Africa, Zients said early November the United States will move to this new and much stricter global system.
"It will require for nationals to be vaccinated, to prove they're vaccinated, and then to go to the testing and contract tracing regimens," he said.
"That's right, for (fully) vaccinated travellers it is not required to be a quarantine going forward,” he said in response to another question.
Nearly six billion COVID-19 vaccines have already been administered globally, he said, adding that the US is leading the effort to get even more shots and arms across the world. "We know vaccines are affected, including against the Delta variant and vaccines are the best line of defense against COVID."
These vaccination requirements employ the best tool that they have to keep people safe and prevent the spread of the virus. In addition to requiring for nationals to be fully vaccinated, the new international air travel system will acquire other proven disease mitigation strategies, enhanced testing contact tracing and masking, he asserted.
Zients said fully vaccinated travellers will need to complete pre-departure testing within three days prior to departure to the United States and show proof of a negative test. Furthermore, any unvaccinated Americans returning to the US are subject to stricter testing requirements. They will need to test within one day of departure, and will be required to test again, post their arrival.
In the coming weeks, CDC will be issuing a contact tracing order requiring airlines to collect current information from each US bound traveller, including their phone number and email address. This will enable CDC and state and local public health officials to follow up with inbound travellers, and those around them as someone has potentially been exposed to COVID-19 or other pathogens.
"Importantly, this enhanced contact tracing system will do more than help us fight this virus. It will also strengthen our public health surveillance system against any future public health threats,” said the White House official.
Noting that earlier this month, President Joe Biden extended the masking requirement on airplanes and TSA doubled fines for passengers who refuse to mask, he said it is simple masking helps stop the spread of COVID-19.
"If you break the rules, be prepared for the consequences,” he said.
In response to a question, Zients also said it is for the CDC to determine which vaccine is acceptable for entry into the US.