U.S. plans to require foreign visitors to be vaccinated, official says

Passengers arrive on a flight from London amid new restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease at JFK International Airport in New York City, U.S., December 21, 2020. /Reuters

The U.S. is developing a plan to require almost all foreign visitors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of eventually lifting travel restrictions that bar much of the world from entering the country, a White House official said on Wednesday.

The White House wants to reopen travel, which would boost business for the airlines and tourism industry, but it is not ready to immediately lift restrictions because of the rising COVID-19 caseload and highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant, the unnamed official said.

The Biden administration has interagency working groups working “to have a new system ready for when we can reopen travel,” the official said, adding that it includes “a phased approach that over time will mean, with limited exceptions, that foreign nationals traveling to the United States (from all countries) need to be fully vaccinated.”

The first round of travel restrictions was imposed on China in January 2020. Numerous other countries have been added, most recently India in May.

The official’s comments were the strongest signal to date that the White House sees a path to unwinding those restrictions.

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