Sun | Dec 5, 2021

US details new international COVID-19 travel requirements

Published:Monday | October 25, 2021 | 4:45 PM
Travellers wear face coverings in the line for the south security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Airport on August 24, 2021, in Denver. The Biden administration is detailing its new international COVID-19 air travel policies, which will include exemptions for kids and new federal contact tracing requirements. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Children under 18 and people from dozens of countries with a shortage of vaccines will be exempt from new rules that will require most travellers to the United States to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the Biden administration announced Monday.

The government will require airlines to collect contact information on passengers regardless of whether they have been vaccinated to help with contact tracing, if that becomes necessary.

Beginning November 8, foreign, non-immigrant adults travelling to the United States will need to be fully vaccinated, with only limited exceptions, and all travellers will need to be tested for the virus before boarding a plane to the US.

There will be tightened restrictions for American and foreign citizens who are not fully vaccinated.

The new policy comes as the Biden administration moves away from restrictions that ban non-essential travel from several dozen countries — most of Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India and Iran — and instead focuses on classifying individuals by the risk they pose to others.

It also reflects the White House's embrace of vaccination requirements as a tool to push more Americans to get the shots by making it inconvenient to remain unvaccinated.

Under the policy, those who are vaccinated will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of travel, while the unvaccinated must present a test taken within one day of travel.

Children under 18 will not be required to be fully vaccinated because of delays in making them eligible for vaccines in many places.

They will still need to take a COVID-19 test unless they are 2 or younger.

Others who will be exempt from the vaccination requirement include people who participated in COVID-19 clinical trials, who had severe allergic reactions to the vaccines, or are from a country where shots are not widely available.

That latter category will cover people from countries with vaccination rates below 10% of adults.

They may be admitted to the US with a government letter authorising travel for a compelling reason and not just for tourism, a senior administration official said.

The official estimated that there are about 50 such countries.

The US will accept any vaccine approved for regular or emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization.

That includes Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and China's Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. Mixing-and-matching of approved shots will be permitted.

The Biden administration has been working with airlines, who will be required to enforce the new procedures. Airlines will be required to verify vaccine records and match them against identity information.

Quarantine officers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will spot-check passengers who arrive in the US for compliance, according to an administration official.

Airlines that don't enforce the requirements could be subject to penalties of up to nearly $35,000 per violation.

Follow The Gleaner on Twitter and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com or editors@gleanerjm.com.