Montreal Gazette

U.S. EASES TRAVEL BAN WITH CHINA.

- DAVID SHEPARDSON AND ANDREA SHALAL

•Theunited States in November will reopen for air travellers from 33 countries including China and Brazil who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the White House said on Monday.

Separately on Monday, the United States extended its pandemic-related restrictio­ns at land borders with Canada and Mexico that bar nonessenti­al travel such as tourism through Oct. 21.

The United States has allowed foreign air travellers from more than 150 countries throughout the pandemic. Its action on Monday means that new COVID-19 vaccine requiremen­ts will now apply to nearly all foreign nationals flying to the United States — including those not subject to the prior restrictio­ns.

The decision, announced by White House coronaviru­s response coordinato­r Jeff Zients, marked an abrupt shift for President Joe Biden's administra­tion, which last week said it was not the right time to lift any restrictio­ns amid rising COVID-19 cases.

The United States had lagged many other countries in lifting such restrictio­ns, and allies including Britain and Germany welcomed the move. The U.S. restrictio­ns have barred travellers from most of the world including tens of thousands of foreign nationals with relatives or business links in the U.S.

Restrictio­ns on nonu.s. citizens were first imposed on air travellers from China in January 2020 by then-president Donald Trump and then extended to dozens of other countries, without any clear metrics for how and when to lift them.

The United States will admit fully vaccinated air travellers from the 26 “Schengen countries” in Europe including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerlan­d and Greece, as well as Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. The existing policy has barred non-u.s. citizens who were in those countries within 14 days.

Zients did not give a precise start date beyond saying “early November.”

Critics had said that the U.S. travel restrictio­ns no longer made sense because some countries with high COVID-19 rates were not on the restricted list while some on the list have the pandemic more under control.

Americans travelling from abroad who are not vaccinated will face tougher rules than vaccinated citizens, including needing to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within a day of travel.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce praised the U.S. announceme­nt, saying “allowing vaccinated foreign nationals to travel freely to the United States will help foster a robust and durable recovery for the American economy.”

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