Washington: The United States will reopen its land and air borders on November 8 to foreign visitors fully vaccinated against Covid-19 -- ending a more than 18-month ban on travel from much of the globe that separated families, hobbled tourism and strained diplomatic ties.
The decision to ease restrictions was "guided by public health, stringent and consistent," said White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz in a tweet announcing the new policy.
He said the "announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel."
To slow down the spread of the coronavirus, US borders were closed after March 2020 to travellers from large parts of the world, including the European Union, Britain and China, India and Brazil. Overland visitors from Mexico and Canada were also banned.
The months of restrictions affecting hundreds of millions of people helped fuel both personal and economic suffering brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Not all the technical and logistical details of the new policy have yet been announced. But officials had previously outlined it, saying that vaccinated air passengers will need to be tested within three days before travel, and airlines will be required to put in place a contact tracing system.
US health authorities have said that all vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization would be accepted for entry by air. At the moment, this includes the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.
Initially, vaccines will be required for "non-essential" trips -- such as visiting family or tourism -- though unvaccinated travellers will still be allowed into the country for "essential" trips as they have been for the last year and a half.
A second phase beginning in early January 2022 will require all visitors to be fully vaccinated to enter the United States by land, no matter the reason for their trip.