On 20 September 2021, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients announced the United States would reopen to fully vaccinated travellers from 33 countries in early November 2021.
Travel from Europe to the US ended on 20 January 2020 after then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at stemming the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Since then only US citizens, well-connected business travellers and an exceptional few others have been able to fly into the US from Europe.
By the time travel resumes, the US will have been closed for more than 20 months to more than half of the world’s population.
The 33 countries that will regain access to the US include the 26 Schengen members, which includes Switzerland, UK, Ireland, China, India, South Africa and Brazil.
The decision marks an abrupt shift for the Biden administration. Only last week it said it was not ready to lift restrictions amid rising Covid-19 cases. There has been significant pressure on the US from leaders across Europe to reopen. With rates of vaccination across the EU (66%) outstripping those across the US (63%) the travel ban was getting harder to defend. In the UK the rate is now 71%. Although, the rate in Switzerland (61%) is lower than the US.
Foreign nationals will need to provide proof of vaccination before travel but will not be required to quarantine on arrival. The new system will also include collecting contact tracing data from passengers.
Zients did not give a precise start date for the new rules. In his announcement he said “early November”.
Remaining details, such as the exact date, the cut off age for children and the list of approved vaccines, still need to be finalised.
Accepted vaccines will follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the two predominantly used in Switzerland, are two of the three Covid-19 vaccines currently approved by the CDC for use in the US, which is good news for Swiss travellers.
According to the Financial Times, US officials have agreed to accept people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite it not being approved by US regulators.