WASHINGTON D.C.: A senior White House official said the Biden administration is drafting a new system for international travel, to eventually lift travel restrictions that prevent most travelers from entering the U.S. from other countries.
Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, told the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board that due to the surge in local and international Covid cases caused by the Delta variant, the administration is not planning to immediately ease travel restrictions.
In August, Reuters reported that the White House, which previously stated it was considering mandating vaccines for international visitors, was drafting vaccine entry requirements.
"The American people need to be sure the new system for international travel is safer, even as we. will be letting in more travelers," Zients said.
During the same meeting, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the lifting of international travel restrictions is being delayed by a spike in COVID-19 cases, adding, "Before we can do that, we have to get a better handling on the domestic situation, which requires us to get everyone vaccinated."
Zients said the new plan will replace current restrictions and will be "safer, stronger and sustainable," stressing, "Vaccination rates matter here at home and other countries." He also urged travel companies and airlines to make vaccinations mandatory for employees.
While some industry officials are concerned that the Biden administration might not lift travel restrictions until 2022, Zients confirmed that the White House aims to lift travel restrictions "as soon as we can," adding that the new system will include collecting contact tracing data from passengers to enable the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor those exposed to COVID-19.
Most non-U.S. citizens who have been in the UK, the 26 EU Schengen countries, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil within the past 14 days are currently unable to enter the U.S.
Non-essential travel by most non-American citizens into the U.S. through its land borders with Mexico and Canada is also prohibited.
But critics stressed that such restrictions are no longer appropriate because the list of restricted countries does not include some with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, while others listed have the pandemic under control.