US ditches travel ban for double jabbed UK and EU travellers

20 September 2021, 23:55

Joe Biden is set to make the announcement on Monday
Joe Biden is set to make the announcement on Monday. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The US will relax its restrictions for fully-vaccinated UK and EU travellers in November, the White House has confirmed.

The change will put an end to the 18-month travel ban imposed on UK and EU travellers by former US president Donald Trump.

There will still be a requirement for travellers to show proof of a negative Covid test taken within the last three days.

Airlines will be required to collect contact information from international travellers so that they can be traced if required.

It is unclear what the change will mean for unvaccinated travellers, although there are reports they will need to take more Covid tests in order to travel freely into the country.

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The announcement was relatively unexpected, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying yesterday that he did not think the travel situation would be "fixed" this week.

"I don’t think we’re necessarily going to crack it this week," he told reporters on his flight to the US on Sunday.

"I’ve got to warn you I don’t think this is going to be necessarily fixed this week. We are going to try but I’m told that I wouldn’t necessarily hold your breath."

But today Mr Johnson has welcomed the change, tweeting: "I am delighted that from November, [Joe Biden] is reinstating transatlantic travel so fully vaccinated UK nationals can visit the USA.

"It’s a fantastic boost for business and trade, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again."

White House Covid co-ordinator Jeff Zients announced the end of the travel ban, saying all foreign visitors will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination as well as proof of a negative test taken with the previous three days.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognises people who have received the Pfizer, Moderna or Janssen from Johnson & Johnson jab as fully vaccinated, but travellers who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine will also be able to enter because the US acknowledges its approval by the World Health Organisation.

Read more: Foreign visitors to the US will need to be fully-vaccinated under Biden's plans

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hailed the "brilliant collaboration" between the US and the UK.

He tweeted: "Brilliant collaboration through our UK/US working group has led to Transatlantic flights resuming from Nov for double jabbed!"

He went on to thank Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and US Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also tweeted welcoming the news, saying: "Excellent news for travellers from the UK to the US. Important for our economic recovery, families and trade."

Under current rules, most people from the UK and EU are banned from entering the US.

There are some exemptions, such as US citizens, limited categories of visas holders such as UN staff and diplomats and those with an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA).

The travel ban also applied to travellers from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, or India.

The announcement has been welcomed by industry leaders, with Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, hailing it a "major milestone" that would allow "consumers and businesses to book travel to the US with confidence".

"The UK will now be able to strengthen ties with our most important economic partner, the US, boosting trade and tourism as well as reuniting friends, families and business colleagues," said Mr Weiss.

He went on to thank the UK Government and the Biden administration, and said the US was the company's "heartland".

"We are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic," he added.

It comes following an announcement that the UK will overhaul its own travel rules.

In measures announced last week, expensive pre-departure Covid tests are to be scrapped and the traffic light system is being switched out in favour of a simplified, two-tier system.

There will be a single "red list" of destinations, and fully-jabbed people returning from countries not on the list will no longer need a pre-departure test.

From the end of October they will be able to replace the day two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test.

The change to the list will take place on October 4, with the USA is currently on the UK's amber list.