Closest allies urge US to relax travel bans
The United States has cited the highly transmissible COVID-19 delta variant for keeping a travel ban impacting dozens of countries in place. Most non-U.S. citizens of the United Kingdom and China, Iran, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, India and Schengen Area countries are currently banned from entering the United States. The delta variant is the United States’ most dominant strain, accounting for 83% of cases in the U.S.
But even as the variant spreads worldwide, travel has picked up. And countries that have reopened to Americans want the U.S. to return the favor. Here’s what the U.S.’s closest allies -- and the travel industry -- have said about the ongoing travel ban.
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Starting Aug. 2, England will allow fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. and the European Union to enter its borders without the need to quarantine.
The travel industry welcomed the news on both sides of the Atlantic. August would traditionally be one of the busiest travel months between the U.K. and the U.S. but has seen just a trickle of the usual traffic this summer thanks to strict restrictions for visitors to both countries.
“We want people to be able to come from the U.S. freely in a way that they normally do,” England’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an interview with LBC Radio.
But even with England reopening to Americans, most U.K. citizens still can’t come to the United States. And it doesn’t appear that it will change anytime soon. The White House, citing the highly transmissible delta variant dominant in the U.S. and much of Europe, said that it wouldn’t lift any of its existing travel restrictions “at this point.” The U.S. Travel Association reacted to the news, saying that closed borders “have not prevented the Delta variant from entering the U.S.”
According to the Associated Press, Virgin Atlantic’s CEO urged the U.S. to end its travel ban, saying that an “overly cautious approach” would further impact economic recovery.
But British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he was optimistic that the U.S. would end the travel ban put in place by former President Donald Trump.
“We can only set the rules at our end,” Shapps said, according to the Associated Press. We can’t change that on the other side, but we do expect that in time they will release that executive order.”
The European Union opened to vaccinated Americans this summer, but the U.S. travel ban remains in place. Germany’s government has taken a more vocal stance against the U.S. travel ban than other countries.
“We urgently need fact-based reciprocity in the entry rules between the U.S. and the Schengen area,” Peter Beyer, Germany’s Coordinator of Transatlantic Cooperation, told Bloomberg.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel herself pressed President Joe Biden on the travel ban, which bars non-U.S. citizens from Schengen Area countries, during her visit to Washington in early July. But she also noted that the delta variant could pose complications.
"[Relaxing the travel ban] has to be a sustainable decision," Merkel said. "It is certainly not sensible to have to take it back after only a few days."
Travel providers in the European Union have also implored the U.S. government to relax its side of the travel ban.
“What we’re anxiously waiting for is reciprocity on the part of the U.S. government,” Air France-KLM CEO Benjamin Smith told the New York Times in early July. “The trans-Atlantic is the most important long-haul market that we have.”
Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that reopening the land border between the U.S. and Mexico was to the “benefit of both governments,” according to Border Report.
Mexico eagerly flung open its doors to Americans — and has never required testing for entry. Americans flocked to destinations such as Cancun, Mexico City and Cabo San Lucas.
However, the U.S.–Mexico land border has been closed to nonessential travel since March 2020 and will remain shut through at least Aug. 21. However, it sounds like Mexico is ready for a full reopening of the land border, saying that the closure affects commerce in California and Texas, two border states.
“We have good relations with the United States, there is cooperation, and we need each other,” Lopez Obrador said in a YouTube video, according to Border Report. “We cannot have the border closed for a long time because we have economic and commercial ties that are strategic to Mexico and the United States.”