Biden administration getting pressure to lift international COVID travel restrictions

The Biden administration is under increasing pressure to lift international travel restrictions imposed during COVID-19, but seems to be in no hurry to do so even though other countries have lifted their restrictions on travelers from the U.S.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. is considering advice from experts about whether the U.S. should lift restrictions, and there is a working group of American and European experts currently putting together an agreement covering travel.

Those who want restrictions lifted say that international travel isn’t contributing to the spread of COVID, and also experss concerns about the loss of revenue from international business travel, summer vacations and foreign students who want to arrive before the fall semester begins.

Currently, travelers can’t come into the U.S. from other countries unless they are returning citizens, family members of U.S. citizens or individuals from certain exempted groups.

“Frozen in time”

President of the Travel Technology Association Steve Shur said international travel restrictions are “frozen in time” and wants to see travelers being able to come into the U.S. from abroad again.

“We believe it’s possible now, at least for countries of low risk, to start to reopen international travel,” he said.

But others say the level of infection in other countries shouldn’t make a difference because the disease is still circulating in other ways. The high level of vaccination in the U.S. is protective, they argue.

“Even if you could accurately pick and choose, which you really can’t, by the time you’ve implemented the policy it’s changed,” Director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law Lawrence Gostin said, adding that he thinks the current policy is “nonsensical.”

Considerations

Gostin advocates having a vaccination requirement for travel into the U.S., but many oppose vaccine passports here and they probably would face stiff opposition from lawmakers.

According to data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), continuing to ban international travel could cost the domestic economy $105 billion, which is a huge price to pay for the tourism industry and others affected by the bans.

Blinken has said the U.S. is “not in a hurry” to allow an influx of international travelers into the U.S. while the delta variant is circulating, however–and that approach has those affected frustrated.

“The Biden administration is in no hurry … and the chances of anything happening before August now seem to be zilch,” a source close to the discussions with the U.K. told the Financial Times last week.

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