Travel ban to the United States: are vaccine passports the reason for the blockage?

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The use of vaccine / health passports for travel to the United States received two sources of support this week. One was in the form of a new bill going to the House of Representatives (requiring all plane and train travelers in the United States to prove their Covid-19 medical condition) and the another was from Dr. Fauci, declaring his support for banning unvaccinated Americans from flying.

Indeed, it has been reported that the White House is only considering reopening travel to travelers from the EU and UK if people can show proof of vaccination.

However, there is a serious question mark over the political possibility of introducing a travel policy that remains so polarizing across the country – and this could be a major factor in which the reopening of transatlantic travel has stalled and why the travel ban to the United States remains in place. .

The key pressure this week to show the evidence has come from three sources:

  • With nearly 80 million Americans vaccinated, Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases supported the ban for all unvaccinated Americans from taking flights, domestic or international. As stated in The independent, Fauci said, “I would argue that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people, you should be vaccinated.”
  • Democratic Representative Don Beyer presented a bill to the House of Representatives Thursday called The Safe Travel Act, ask all travelers on a plane or in the process of showing proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 72 hours of boarding. Beyer said that “requiring travelers and airport and Amtrak employees to provide proof of the Covid vaccine or a negative test makes good sense.”
  • A day later the The White House said it was open to all ideas, with Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients saying, “I think we have a very good track record showing that we are pulling the available levers to acquire vaccines and taking no action on the table.” As reported by Business intern, it could mean that the White House is considering introducing testing or a vaccination requirement for domestic air and long-distance train travel, in the wake of new policies encouraging federal workers to get vaccinated. At the same time, President Biden continued his encouragement to get the vaccine: “We have been patient, but our patience is running out,” President Biden said. “And your refusal has cost us all. So please do the right thing.

Additionally, new real-world research has shown that in-flight testing significantly helps limit the Covid-19 virus – recently released results this week proved that exposure to Covid-19 on flights where every passenger tested negative was less than 0.1%. The study has been underway since December 2020 on transatlantic flights with Delta Air Lines where all passengers boarded after a negative PCR test result carried out within 72 hours.

The airline’s director of health, Dr Henry Ting, said of the real-world data in The telegraph that “when you combine the extremely low infection rate on board a Covid-19 tested flight with the layers of protection on board, including mandatory masking and hospital-grade air filtration, the risk of transmission is less than one in a million between the United States and the United Kingdom, for example. Ting added that “these numbers will improve further as vaccination rates rise and new cases decline globally.”

The use of so-called vaccine passports is very controversial in the United States and the United Kingdom, the idea is presented apparently every two weeks before being suspended. Where it was put in place, there have been political protests against their use (as in France) but coupled with an increase in vaccination rates – in the EU they are called Covid digital certificates to avoid being politically labeled as a vaccine. passports. And to be clear, people don’t need to be vaccinated to use them in most places, but they do need to show proof of negative Covid-19 test results on a regular basis.

And maybe that’s why the Biden administration is biding its time to revoke the US travel ban for travelers from the EU and UK, because to reopen travel it wants to do it with some sort of rules on immunization, needs the systems in place to verify health status, but does not want to make a political misstep by being seen as favoring health passports.

Edward Alden, columnist at Foreign police, visiting professor at Western Washington University and senior researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations (a nonprofit American think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs) called the current travel ban to United States of “thoughtless” and “unscientific”. allows travelers from countries with lower vaccination rates than countries that have vaccinated most of their adult populations.

Alden thinks the White House “fears the administration is paying a political price if it is seen to favor so-called vaccine passports – a Republican idiot.” For this reason, he writes, the United States has made no progress in putting in place a system for the arrival of foreign travelers, as the status quo is currently favored by both Republicans and Democrats, and that the U.S. travel ban could be in effect until the 2022 U.S. midterm election.

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