By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is developing a “new system for international travel” that will include contact tracing for when it eventually lifts travel restrictions that bar much of the world’s population from entering the country, a senior White House official said on Wednesday.
The White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients informed the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board that the administration doesn’t plan to relax travel restrictions citing COVID-19 Delta-related cases throughout the United States and the rest of the world.
Reuters reported in August that almost all foreign tourists could be covered by the White House’s vaccine entry requirements. The White House has previously stated that they are considering mandating foreign visitors to receive vaccines.
Zients added that while the new system of international travel will be safer, Americans need to believe that they’ll allow more people in.
Zients stated that they are looking into vaccination requirements for foreign nationals who travel to the United States.
At the same time, Gina Raimondo, Commerce Secretary, stated that international travel restrictions are being impeded by the increase in COVID-19 case. Raimondo stated that the goal is to shift to a metrics-based system. We must first get better control of domestic conditions, and that means getting everyone immunized.
Zients claimed that the new plan would eliminate the restrictions currently in place and will be safer, more robust and longer-lasting. The specific criteria for when restrictions could be lifted by the administration were not specified.
Zients stressed that “vaccination rates matter at home and in other countries” and urged travel companies such as airlines to urgently mandate vaccinations.
Officials in the industry fear that travel restrictions may be kept up by the Biden Administration for several months, or even until 2022.
To combat the spread COVID-19, extraordinary travel restrictions by the United States were initially imposed upon China in January 2020. Many other countries were added to the list, including India in May.
Zients stated that the administration was eager to ease travel restrictions.
Zients said the new system will include collecting contact tracing data from passengers traveling into the United States to enable the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to contact travelers if exposed to COVID-19.
Trump’s 2020 administration blocked efforts to make airlines collect information about international travelers destined to the United States. This was due to privacy concerns.
Zients indicated that they wanted the new system “ready-to press go” when restrictions can be lifted. Zients stated that they understand the significance of this.
The United States bans most foreign citizens from the United States who have spent the past 14 days in Britain, 26 Schengen nations in Europe, India, South Africa and Iran.
Separately, the United States bans most non-essential travel at U.S. borders with Mexico (Canada).
Critics argue that restrictions are no longer necessary because certain countries have high COVID-19 infection rates and others on the list do not need to be restricted.
This article is rewritten to rectify an spelling error in its headline.