US Will Re-Open To European Visitors In November

The U.S. has a ban in place on travelers who’ve been in China, Iran, the European Schengen area, U.K. and Ireland, Brazil, South Africa or India in the prior 14 days. This has been a ludicrous policy.

  • Where the U.S. has a higher rate of infection than countries where travelers are banned from
  • When the U.S. isn’t following a ‘zero Covid’ policy anyway, travel bans do little to slow the spread of the disease
  • To the extent that unvaccinated Indonesians, Russians, and Peruvians are welcomed while vaccinated Europeans who test negative are not

Ultimately it’s safer to spend time with vaccinated Germans who test negative for Covid-19 than with the median Texan or Floridian in a restaurant or bar. Yet the Biden administration has thus far been unwilling to revisit this and other Trump administration policies not grounded in science. This has several reasons,

  • A status quo bias in policy, it’s hard to implement changes to policy than to leave them in place.
  • Not wanting to be blamed when bad things happen following a change in policy, which also makes it harder to blame a predecessor.
  • Some members of the Biden administration still wanting to follow a ‘zero Covid’ strategy even though the virus has in all likelihood become endemic and there’s no possibility that a comprehensive set of policies could be enacted which would follow such a prescription even if it were chosen for the U.S. Some advisors even want the air travel mask mandate to be permanent.

Finally though reports are that the U.S. will re-open to vaccinated travelers from the U.K. and Europe in November, according to sources ahead of an anticipated meeting meeting between President Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday.

With any American 12 years old and above who want a vaccine having been able to get one, with vaccines on the cusp of being available to 5 year olds (and those under 12 at little risk to begin with), the only thing standing in the way of nearly all Americans who wish full protection from having it is the FDA and other parts of the bureaucracy blocking booster shots. There’s certainly no reason to believe banning travel from countries with higher vaccination rates than the U.S. is a worthwhile public health measure.

Some reports suggest that the ‘vaccine passport’ regime for foreign travelers would replace travel bans entirely, including for the rest of the countries on the list. it remains to be seen what the full list of accepted vaccines will be, or when such new rules will be revised to limit length of time since vaccination that entry will be valid (when boosters will be required).

Update: Bizarrely, the U.S. may not recognize the AstraZeneca vaccine which has been widely used in Europe and especially the U.K. Restrictions on other regions of the world are still under assessment. We’re waiting on news regarding how children not yet eligible for vaccination will be treated.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine hasn’t been approved in the U.S., largely as a punishment for messy trials, though data on its enduring effectiveness in the real world is strong. The FDA has never explained why scientists and regulators in the rest of the world are wrong about this vaccine.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Talking about “re-opening” is disingenuous as long as the deranged testing requirement stays in place for vaccinated travelers.

  2. CNN has even more misleading headline: “US to ease travel restrictions on fully vaccinated foreign visitors”. However, if you are fully vaccinated you still have to do a test 3 days before departure (to keep Abbott and others to make $ on those tests), and, in addition, CDC will be collecting emails and phone data for contact tracing. This means even more stupid paperwork. This pandemic looks more and more as a sport event for government bureaucrats to come up with “something” to address the global failure we do see so far. How come the current combination of the high vaccination rates, travel restrictions, and masking did not prevent us from the record high cases? Do you really think that contact tracing on US-bound planes with stop the pandemic?

  3. Speaking of ‘vaccine passport’, yesterday I tried to load my info onto the new IATA travel pass. All the app does is allow users to upload their vax records onto their cellphone, so they can wave the cellphone at a scanner in lieu of carrying the paper card.

    Unfortunately, US citizens weren’t on the dropdown list.

  4. Saving my travel cash/miles for the day Europe opens up for the unvaccinated. Until then, let the travel industry on both continents starve.

  5. @John Galt: Then you will save until you are a millionaire so have at it. Not going to happen for MANY years. And the travel industry will do just fine without you.

  6. @Larry. When the industry gets tired of loosing money they will pressure governments to eliminate the silliness

  7. @John Galt – You had your chance. Europe was opened this summer to unvaccinated travelers (albeit with testing requirements).

    Most countries backtracked on that policy recently (and wisely so).

  8. Not picking a fight here John but you need to be realistic. The US change makes a lot of sense and hopefully other countries will follow suit. Everything from travel (and not just international but eventually domestic as well I’m sure) to enjoying indoor events and dining with friends and family will become increasingly complicated if not impossible for the unvaccinated. The travel (and dining and entertainment) industries are already recovering and don’t need the unvaccinated $$$ (and the risk and liability and complications that come with them) to thrive. It’s happening all over the world and in this country. Anyone who thinks they can continue to decline vaccination protection and continue to easily work, travel and enjoy freedom of movement and leisure activities does not have their eyes open to the reality we live in.

  9. @Larry
    I’m fully vaxxed, dem voter, and don’t care about showing my covid card to enter places. I WILL care and be real pissed at the government if I have to keep showing this damn card to eat at a restaurant a year from now, regardless of case rates/variants/etc. If there is no end point, I dont think people are aware at the real backlash that will happen.

  10. @Vijay: You will be “real pissed at the government”? The government didn’t create COVID, not this one or the one before it (well they did help make it easier for it to spread but that’s another story) so why would you be pissed at them for trying to figure out ways to make it go away faster? And they can’t create an imaginary endpoint just to make people feel better. I just don’t get that line of thinking. I don’t think anybody likes the virus or the measures taken trying to control it. But what are you saying? Let’s just go on about our lives and ignore it and not have too many inconveniences even if it makes things worse– because it’s annoying? I was counting the days and months of this thing at the beginning too. Now it’s the years, like it or not.

  11. I am all for the double vaccinations and mask mandates that are needed to control a deadly and highly transmissible disease. Yet, I cannot fathom the rationale behind the US banning fully vaccinated visitors from other countries. Gary is right about bureaucratic stasis and buck-passing being probable causes for the lack of progress. The ‘security theatre’ we see at airports shows that, once in place, strictures are well nigh impossible to remove even if the effectiveness is negligible and cost astronomical. It is a worrisome precedent. And what’s with the continuing closure of the border with Canada? It is laughable considering that Canadian responses to covid have been significantly been more effective than US policies. But they stand! I wonder if Biden has reassigned all ICE hands to the southern border where they can practice their lassoing skills on those desperate Haitians. So no one to serve up north.

  12. @Vijay. Pissed at the government? I am sure you are happy to receive its largesse and protection. Don’t be hypocritical.

  13. That’s great . They should open up to all European vaccinated travelers . Europe is safer than most of Florida here where Covid is so bad .

  14. @Vijay Wait, just so I get this straight, it’s: COVID >> vaccination cards >> government overreach >> Communist China. Makes total sense.

    So, actually this was a post about the government LOOSENING restrictions to let people have MORE freedom and travel to the US under certain conditions. Okay you can go back to yelling at your TV now. It’ll make COVID go away real fast.

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