US imposes new vaccination rules for foreign air travellers

Country to lift travel restrictions on China, India and much of Europe from Nov 8

WASHINGTON : US President Joe Biden signed an order imposing new Covid-19 vaccine requirements for most foreign national air travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions on China, India and much of Europe effective Nov 8, the White House said.

The extraordinary US travel restrictions were first imposed early last year to address the spread of Covid-19.

The rules bar most non-US citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

"It is in the interests of the United States to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the Covid-19 pandemic and to adopt an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States," Mr Biden's proclamation says.

The White House confirmed that children under 18 are exempt from the new vaccine requirements as are people with certain medical issues.

Non-tourist travellers from about 50 countries with nationwide vaccination rates of less than 10 per cent will also be eligible for exemption from the rules. Those receiving an exemption will generally need to be vaccinated within 60 days after arriving in the US.

Those countries include Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Armenia, Myanmar, Iraq, Nicaragua, Senegal, Uganda, Libya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Congo, Kenya, Yemen, Haiti, Chad and Madagascar.

The White House first disclosed on Sept 20 it would remove restrictions early next month for fully vaccinated air travellers from 33 countries.

"Families and friends can see each other again, tourists can visit our amazing landmarks. This policy will further boost economic recovery," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

The Biden administration also detailed requirements airlines must follow to confirm foreign travellers have been vaccinated before boarding US-bound flights.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this month it would accept any vaccine authorised for use by US regulators or the World Health Organisation and will accept mixed-dose vaccines from travellers.

The CDC said there are no religious exemptions for international travellers seeking to avoid Covid-19 requirements.

Foreign air travellers must provide vaccination documentation from an "official source", and airlines must confirm the last dose was at least two weeks earlier than the travel date.

International air travellers will need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days before departure.

The White House said unvaccinated Americans and foreign nationals receiving exemptions will need to provide proof of a negative test within one day of departing. - REUTERS