President Joe Biden said on Thursday the United States is reviewing when it can lift restrictions that ban most-non U.S. citizens from traveling to the United States from much of Europe after German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue.
"It's in process now," Biden said of discussions about when restrictions could be lifted. He said he expects to be able to answer "within the next several days what is likely to happen ... I'm waiting to hear from our folks in our COVID team as to when that should be done."
Merkel said Biden told her the same that he told the press and they discussed the impact of the COVID-19 Delta variant. "It has to be a sustainable decision. It is certainly not sensible to have to take it back after only a few days," Merkel said.
Airlines and others have urged the administration to lift restrictions covering most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in Britain, the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran, and Brazil.
Numerous countries not subject to travel restrictions have far higher COVID-19 rates than many European countries covered by the restrictions in place since March 2020.
In early June, the White House launched interagency working groups with the European Union, Britain, Canada, and Mexico to look at how to eventually to lift restrictions. Those meetings have generally been occurring every two weeks but some have recently been delayed.
A White House official told Reuters last week "there are further discussions to be had before we can announce any next steps on travel reopening with any country ... We want to ensure that we move deliberately and are in a position to sustainably reopen international travel when it is safe to do so."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants airlines to implement international passenger contact tracing as part of any lifting of restrictions, sources told Reuters. It is unclear how long that will take to implement.
Airlines and some government officials have said they do not anticipate the United States lifting restrictions until August at the earliest.
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