For over 530 days, the US border has been closed to travelers in the EU and the UK, and families and friends have been separated. And despite some serious comments from EU diplomats and commissioners this week – who continue to put pressure on President Biden’s administration to open the country – the White House was clearly in opposition.
However, there was still promising news for future, long-distance travelers: the impact of the EU travel ban on US travelers appears to have subsided; travel restrictions eased between Canada and the UK; and Qantas is busy preparing to restart its flights between Australia and the UK before Christmas.
Australia and the United Kingdom reopen to each other
Australia extended its travel ban by a further three months to 17 December, allowing the government to reach its target of getting 80% of eligible people vaccinated before dropping entry and exit restrictions – Britain sends 4 million vaccine doses to Australia to help them meet goals. Currently, as reported by The Telegraph, over 12.3 million people in Australia (60% of the population) have had one dose of a vaccine, while 35% have had two.
Despite this delay, the airline Qantas said it is stepping up operations to restart major routes before Christmas. It hopes flights between Australia and the UK can start from mid-December as well as routes to Fiji, Singapore, the US, Canada and Japan. Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said that “some people may say we are too optimistic, but based on the pace of vaccine roll – out, this is within reach and we will make sure we are ready.”
Canada and Britain reopen for each other
Canada reopens to fully vaccinated passengers on September 7 from anywhere in the world without quarantine, and in return, Canada was added to Britain’s green travel list last Monday.
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Andrew Crawley, Chief Commercial Officer of American Express Global Business Travel, said the news showed that “bilateral transatlantic travel had made some progress.” Crawley added, however, that “the United States is now still the only obstacle to the full return of trade across one of the busiest trade routes in the world. It is time for the Biden administration to lift 212 (f) and take a data-driven, science-based approach to the reopening of international travel. The global economy cannot wait. “
This point was highlighted by The Telegraph– it reported that after the UK decided to allow US vaccinated travelers to England without quarantine on 2 August, bookings immediately increased by 300%.
The EU travel ban has so far been insignificant
Although the EU has decided to remove the US from its EU-wide list of trips, it is not (yet) the disaster it may be — EU countries do not have to follow EU-wide recommendations — and many seem to be continuing with existing policies for now and still allow travel. A few have introduced new quarantines for Americans, e.g. Italy, while others are slowly announcing changes – Sweden announced that from September 6, all US passengers will be prevented from visiting, including those vaccinated.
With a few weeks left of reliably good summer weather, the move is undeniably economical, allowing the tourism sector to take advantage of one last hurray of US tourists before the threats of increased infection rates in the colder months again confuse.
EU diplomats still put pressure on the Biden administration …
Many diplomats talked a lot about the continued US travel ban on travelers in the EU and the UK this week:
- Ireland’s ambassador to the United States, Dan Mulhall, spoke about how the ban “damaged the relationship”.
- The Vice-President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, canceled a planned conference trip to the United States in protest of the closed borders. Commissioner Schinas said: “I canceled my planned trip to the United States next week because I do not think the lack of reciprocity in the travel rules is reasonable. It does not make sense either – Europe is the most vaccinated continent in the world. ”
- Stavros Lambrinidis, EU Ambassador to the United States, posted on Twitter that the ongoing travel ban “seriously damages vital economic and human ties at a time when they are most needed.”
… but the White House remained firm
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was again asked on Wednesday if there was any news on when the US travel ban could be lifted. The answer was a resounding no that the policy remains unchanged for now, even though there was some recognition for divided families and friends: “We certainly understand and relate to it, and know that people are eager to be reunited with their loved ones – and it is something that affects many people around the world. ”
The White House announced in June that it had set up working groups to analyze when borders could be reopened with Canada, Mexico, Britain and the EU. Psaki was aware on Wednesday that any policy would make vaccination a prerequisite for incoming travelers outside the United States
Monday, September 6th – This article was modified to change the spelling of Qantas in the first paragraph.