THURSDAY, Aug. 5, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Plans are underway to require nearly all foreign travelers to the United States to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a Biden administration official confirmed Wednesday.
The policy will be put in place once the current restrictions on travel into this country are lifted, but officials haven't decided exactly when that will happen, The New York Times reported.
President Joe Biden has been under heavy pressure for months to ease restrictions on foreign travel to the United States, particularly as other countries have now relaxed their own restrictions.
Last week, the United Kingdom announced it would welcome fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and Europe. On Thursday, that country further relaxed its quarantine requirements and increased the number of countries on its travel list, the Washington Post reported.
Meanwhile, Canada has said it will begin allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors into the country on Aug. 9. Immunized visitors from other countries can enter after Sept. 7, the Post reported.
But White House officials have said there is no plan to lift current restrictions any time soon, as the highly contagious Delta variant wreaks havoc in this country.
"Given where we are today, with the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week.
That stance was reiterated on Wednesday evening by a White House official.
"The interagency working groups are working to develop a plan for a consistent and safe international travel policy, in order to have a new system ready for when we can reopen travel," the administration official, who was not authorized to detail the plan, told the Times. "This includes a phased approach that over time will mean, with limited exceptions, that foreign nationals traveling to the United States [from all countries] need to be fully vaccinated."
Most travelers from Brazil, Britain, China, India, Ireland, Iran, South Africa and Europe's Schengen area — which spans 29 countries, city-states and micro-states — are barred from entering the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The only exceptions? They have to be U.S. citizens or they have to spend 14 days before arrival in a country that is not on that list, the Times reported.
Foreign travelers were first banned in January 2020, when former President Donald Trump cut off most travel from China, where COVID-19 first surfaced.
During the first surge of the pandemic in spring 2020, health officials pressed the Trump administration to expand travel bans to much of Europe, and more countries have been added to the ban as the original virus and several variants have spread, the Times reported.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on COVID vaccines.