The Biden administration is developing plans to require all foreign travelers to the United States to be vaccinated against Covid-19, with limited exceptions, according to an administration official with knowledge of the developing policy.
The plan, first reported by Reuters, will be part of a new system to be put in place after the current restrictions on travel into the country are lifted, but officials have yet to determine when that might be done.
President Biden has been under pressure for months to ease restrictions on people wishing to travel to the United States, particularly as other countries, including England, Scotland and Canada, relax their own measures.
But White House officials have said in recent days that there is no plan to lift current restrictions anytime soon, in light of the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
“Given where we are today,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters last week, “with the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point.”
That stance was reiterated on Wednesday evening by White House officials who said that there was no timetable yet for requiring foreign travelers to be inoculated.
“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 publicly detail the plan, wrote in an email. “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.”
Travelers from Iran, China, Brazil, the United Kingdom, South Africa, India, the Republic of Ireland and Europe’s Schengen area — spanning 29 countries, city-states and micro-states — are currently barred from entering the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, unless they are a U.S. citizen or they spend 14 days before arrival in a country that is not on that list.
The United States began restricting travel by foreigners in January 2020, when former President Donald Trump cut off some travel from China in the hope of preventing the spread of the virus. That effort largely failed.
But health officials pressed the Trump administration to expand travel bans to much of Europe during the first surge of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, and more countries have been added to the ban as the original virus and several variants have spread rapidly from country to country.
This week, the Biden administration said that it would keep in place Title 42, a public health rule that allows the government to turn back people attempting to enter the United States from its southern border.
The decision, confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday, amounted to a shift by the administration, which had been working on plans to begin lifting the rule this summer, more than a year after it was imposed by the Trump administration.