The United States government has announced that it will end all COVID-19 travel requirements at the end of the day on May 11, 2023, marking the same day that the COVID-19 public health emergency designated by the government will come to an end.
This means that starting May 12, international travellers arriving in the USA by air, land, or sea will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus.
The Rationale Behind the Requirement
The vaccine requirements had been implemented for international travellers to curb the spread of new coronavirus variants and allow healthcare systems sufficient time to effectively manage access to care in case of an increase in cases and hospitalizations, according to a statement by the White House.
However, the current phase of the response no longer requires such measures.
Previous Travel Restrictions
In January 2021, the Biden administration announced that negative COVID-19 test results would be necessary to enter the country for both U.S. citizens and non-citizens. This rule lasted until June 2022.
The vaccination requirement for foreign travellers was implemented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in November 2021.
Easing Entry to the USA
Repealing the restrictions will make it easier for foreign travellers to visit the United States, which is expected to increase the country’s competitiveness in the tourism industry.
The U.S. Travel Association’s VP of Public Affairs and Policy, Tori Barnes, stated that the move would be helpful in streamlining entry into the country, just in time for an anticipated surge in summer travel.
However, the U.S. Travel Association’s President and Chief Executive, Geoff Freeman, emphasized the need for efficient and secure entry for international visitors. He added that the federal government must ensure that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are adequately staffed at U.S. airports and other ports of entry to meet the growing demand for entry.
Current and Future Implications
Until May 12, international travellers who are not fully vaccinated (booster shots are not required to meet the requirements) will still be prohibited from entering the United States.
The delay in visa wait times for first-time visitors to the United States is estimated to cost the U.S. travel industry $7 billion in 2023. The U.S. Travel Association is calling on Congress to appropriate additional funds to increase staffing at CBP.
While several countries worldwide have dropped their pandemic-era entry requirements, a few countries, including Kenya and Brazil, continue to require travellers to show proof of either COVID-19 vaccination or a negative PCR or antigen test before they are allowed entry.
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