Washington (AP) – Vague hopes of future travel to the US for Europeans: The US government is working on plans to shape a possible easing of current access restrictions.
White House Corona Coordinator Jeff Ziens emphasized in Washington on Thursday that current travel restrictions will remain in effect for the time being. Workgroups are currently developing plans for when access will be allowed again. Evidence of vaccination “could” become a prerequisite for this, “but that has not yet been decided,” Ziens said.
At first it was completely open to what exactly such an arrangement would look like and when it might come about. Ziens emphasized that this is currently not an issue in view of the highly contagious Delta variant. German business representatives expressed hope given the cautious signals from Washington.
US media reported Wednesday evening that the government wanted to introduce a system whereby all incoming foreigners would have to prove a full corona vaccination in the future. The reports said “limited waivers” were being considered for the traveler vaccination requirement in question. But the considerations are still at the beginning.
The practical implementation is therefore still largely unclear – including the question of which vaccination certificates could be recognised. It has also not yet been decided whether the US authorities will only accept vaccinations with preparations that are also approved in the US. It would also be possible to benchmark approval by the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, German industry reacted with relief at the prospect of a possible return to travel. Any easing of restrictions will help German companies operating in the US, said Wolfgang Niedermark, a board member of the Federation of German Industries, Germany’s news agency. The US government will soon have to act and “make sure that German and European vaccination certificates are recognized in the US,” he warned.
In the US, only vaccines from the manufacturers Moderna, Biontech/Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are allowed – but not Astrazeneca, for example. It would therefore also be unclear what the arrangement might look like if someone has been injected with different drugs – for example, Biontech/Pfizer and Astrazeneca.
Since 2020, due to the pandemic, there has been a far-reaching entry ban for travelers from the Schengen area in the US. There are only a few exceptions, for example for close relatives of Americans, diplomats or employees of international organizations. In individual cases, special permits are issued for access. But for the vast majority of Europeans, there is currently no way to enter the country. Entries from China, South Africa and Brazil are also limited to exceptions. All passengers must show a negative corona test upon entry into the US. That also applies to Americans.
In contrast, the EU had already asked Member States in June to gradually lift restrictions on travelers from the US and some other countries. Germany then allowed submissions from the US, among other things, “for all permitted residence purposes, including tourism” – and hoped for an easing from Washington in return.
When Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House in mid-July, US President Joe Biden promised to comment on restrictions on access from Europe within days. That raised a lot of hope. After a while, however, the White House only announced last week: Everything will remain as it is for the time being. The dramaturgy — Biden’s announcement, just to stick with the status quo — created some puzzles.
According to CNN, the US government was about to ease some travel restrictions this year, but has waived it due to the spread of the Delta variant. The White House had explicitly mentioned the Delta variant last week as the reason for the decision not to change anything for the time being.
The extended travel ban does not just separate families and friends. It also plagues business and tourism. The German economy has been pressing this issue for a long time.
Now there is hope again. Lufthansa expects access to the US for fully vaccinated EU citizens in the near future. He sees corresponding statements from the US government as a clear signal that a plan is being worked on at high speed, Lufthansa chief Carsten Spohr said in Frankfurt. There is no tour guidance schedule. Lufthansa has so far conservatively planned that people who have been vaccinated can return to the US by the end of September. But he was hopeful that this could happen sooner, Spohr said.
In view of advancing vaccination campaigns, the corona situation on both sides of the Atlantic had improved significantly in recent months. Due to the delta variant, the number of cases is increasing again in the US and in some European countries.