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US to shift in Nov. from travel bans to vaccine proof for visitors

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives at the White House in Washington on Sept. 20, 2021, after returning from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- The United States is easing its travel restrictions introduced in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, shifting from bans that have limited entry for non-citizens from China, Europe and some other countries to a vaccine requirement for all foreign air travelers from early November, the White House said Monday.

    Under the new rules, foreign nationals boarding U.S.-bound airplanes must show proof that they are fully vaccinated in addition to the existing requirement of testing negative for the novel coronavirus within three days prior to departure. They will not be required to quarantine upon entry to the United States.

    "International travel is critical to connecting families and friends, to fueling small and large businesses, to promoting the open exchange ideas and culture," said Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, during a press briefing.

    "We know vaccines are effective, including against the Delta variant, and vaccines are the best line of defense against COVID," he added.

    Zients said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will determine the definition of "fully vaccinated" and the vaccines that qualify.

    As the coronavirus pandemic accelerated early last year, the United States essentially barred the entry of non-U.S. citizens if they had been in certain countries within the last 14 days.

    The countries are Brazil, Britain, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa and a group of European countries with open-border agreements, such as France, Germany and Italy.

    All air passengers entering the United States have also been required to get a virus test within the three days before their flight to the United States departs and to provide written documentation of their laboratory test result to airlines.

    European countries have been increasingly frustrated with the U.S. travel ban, which has remained in place even as more people have received shots.

    The announcement came amid an escalation of a diplomatic row between the United States and France over a recently announced nuclear submarine agreement between the United States, Britain and Australia.

    Under the new rules, meanwhile, any unvaccinated Americans returning to the United States would need to test within a day of departure, and will be required to test again after their arrival, Zients said.

    The CDC will also require airlines to collect contact information from international travelers, such as their phone number and email address, to facilitate contract tracing to contain the spread of the virus, he said.

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