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US Hints at Lifting Travel Bans

Biden says a determination could come “within the next several days”

At a press conference last week, President Joe Biden said the United States is reviewing COVID-19 travel restrictions, hinting that a decision could be reached “within the next several days.” The rules have kept non-US citizens from much of Europe from traveling to the United States since the early days of the pandemic.

The president’s statements came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue in a meeting between the two leaders. “It’s in process now,” Biden said. “I’m waiting to hear from our folks in our COVID team as to when that should be done.”

The president’s remarks came in answer to Merkel’s query relating specifically to EU travel, but any relaxation of restrictions will likely include a broader reopening. In early June, the White House launched interagency working groups with the European Union, Britain, Canada and Mexico to look at how to eventually to lift restrictions.

However according to reports by Reuters, White House officials still maintain “there are further discussions to be had before we can announce any next steps on travel reopening with any country.” The concern remains around the growing prevalence of the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus, and what impact its spread may have on infection rates around the world.

Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month revised its travel alerts, downgrading a total of 62 destinations – including Canada, Mexico, Italy, France, Germany and Japan – from “Level 4 – COVID-19 very high” to “Level 3 – COVID-19 high” status. A complete list of the CDC’s current travel recommendations is available here.

The news comes as the UK’s Foreign Office has announced a relaxation of its guidance for UK citizens traveling to and from the US. As of July 19, fully-vaccinated travelers to so-called amber list destinations will be able to return without being required to quarantine. The US is one of the countries on the amber list for travel from England.

“We welcome the President’s remark,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, the US Travel Association’s executive VP of public affairs and policy in a statement. “The science says we can safely reopen international travel now, particularly for countries that have made considerable progress toward vaccinating their citizens.”

The travel industry has been pushing the administration to lift restrictions between Canada, Britain, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

“The US travel industry urges the Biden administration, in accordance with the latest science, to swiftly revise its entry policies on international travel,” Emerson Barnes said.,