The Biden administration is facing increasing calls to relax travel restrictions on international travelers coming into the United States as other countries have done amid a changing environment related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The restrictions were put in place to prevent spread of the coronavirus, but travel experts say that with vaccine rates now increasing and the virus already present throughout the U.S., those rules are outdated, The Hill reports.
Though Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that American and European officials are looking into a solution along with input from medical experts, Steve Shur, president of the Travel Technology Association, called the White House's travel bans "frozen in time."
"We believe it's possible now, at least for countries of low risk, to start to reopen international travel" to the United States, Shur told The Hill.
Currently, travel into the United States is shut down to the majority of travelers from China, Iran, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa and India.
The only exceptions are for American citizens returning to the United States, family members of American citizens and those from groups that are exempt, such as international students.
Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law, called the list of countries banned "nonsensical."
"Even if you could accurately pick and choose, which you really can’t, by the time you’ve implemented the policy it’s changed," Gostin said, explaining that by the time a large outbreak in India or Brazil gained worldwide attention, travelers from those countries already were moving in and out of the United States.
"The safest way for a traveler to come to the United States is to come fully vaccinated with an effective vaccine," he said. "I think using a vaccine passport system, and if somebody is not vaccinated then a very recent SARS-CoV-2 test result would be important, to make sure that the United States is safe.
“If we want to get anywhere near back to normal, we can’t live in a bubble," Gostin added. "We're going to have to start international travel, tourism and trade, as other countries recognize. But we want to do it safely."
Still, the White House seems in no hurry to follow the path of the European Union, which eased travel restrictions on Americans in June.
"I can’t put a date on it," Blinken said on June 25 during a joint press conference with France's foreign minister.
"I can tell you we're working very actively on this right now, and we are — like France, like our other partners in Europe — both anxious and looking forward to restoring travel," Blinken said. "But we have to be guided by the science. We have to be guided by medical expertise."
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