The Biden administration is creating working groups of experts in order to come up with ways to reopen international travel in the coming months, according to a White House official, as reported by Reuters.
According to Reuters, a White House official said Tuesday that the groups will work with Canada, Mexico, the European Union, and the United Kingdom in order to begin travel.
The outlet noted, “Another U.S. official said the administration will not move quickly to lift orders that bar people from much of the world from entering the United States because of the time it will take for the groups to do their work. The White House informed airlines and others in the travel industry about the groups, the official said.”
“While we are not reopening travel today, we hope that these expert working groups will help us use our collective expertise to chart a path forward, with a goal of reopening international travel with our key partners when it is determined that it is safe to do so,” the White House official said, adding “any decisions will be fully guided by the objective analysis and recommendations by public health and medical experts.”
The White House COVID Response Team and the National Security Council will reportedly lead the groups. The groups will also involve the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and additional U.S. agencies.
Airlines and lawmakers have pushed Washington, D.C., to open travel as more people around the world become vaccinated and the economy looks to rebound.
Airlines for America, a trade group representing American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and others, applauded the working groups but the trade group said “these working groups should act quickly to endorse a policy backed by science that will allow travelers who are fully vaccinated to travel to the U.S. Quickly is the key – we believe the science is there.”
“With decreased infection rates in the U.S. combined with the administration’s goal of having a critical mass of Americans fully vaccinated by July 4th, there is a true near-term opportunity to safely begin to welcome back international visitors,” U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said in a statement on Tuesday.
The U.S. Travel Association said of the administration’s actions, “a public-private task force can quickly develop a blueprint to reopen international inbound travel and jumpstart a sustained jobs and economic recovery.”
The CDC confirmed that it loosened travel restrictions for multiple countries and territories on Tuesday. The new numbers for the regions were first reported by Reuters and put up on a CDC website on Monday. The ratings include 61 nations that were brought down from a “Level 4” rating, which is the highest number. The agency now recommends that fully vaccinated people can travel to those countries.
An additional 50 countries and territories have been lowered to “Level 2” or “Level 1,” a CDC spokeswoman said. Countries ranked lowest for COVID-19 risks now include Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Iceland, Belize and Albania.
Among those now listed at “Level 3,” are France, Ecuador, the Philippines, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Honduras, Hungary and Italy.
The U.S. State Department said it had updated its recommendations to reflect the recent methodology update, but noted not all ratings were revised because of other factors including “ commercial flight availability, restrictions on U.S. citizen entry, and impediments to obtaining COVID test results within three calendar days.”
The State Department eased its ratings on 85 countries and territories, including Japan.
Per the outlet, the CDC said that the update was made after it changed its criteria for how it decides the level for travel health notices. “The agency said the new criteria for a Level 4 ‘avoid all travel’ recommendation has changed to 500 cases per 100,000 from 100 COVID-19 cases per 100,000,” Reuters noted. The ratings for some other countries are also being revised.
For “Levels 1-3” of the CDC’s travel recommendations, the agency’s website said travelers should make sure they are fully vaccinated before traveling, regardless of the coronavirus case numbers. For “Level 4,” the highest number, the CDC recommended that travelers avoid the destinations, but if they must travel, to ensure they are fully vaccinated.
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