The Biden administration is said to be preparing to ease international travel restrictions and border closures that were introduced at the start of the pandemic and have been in force for more than 12-months around the middle of May according to two White House sources cited by CNBC who are said to be familiar with the matter.
The sources said President Biden is looking at proposals to lift travel bans that are currently imposed on Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil. The administration is also looking at opening up the southern border with Mexico and is in talks with Canada to open up the northern land border.
“There is going to be a sea change in mid-May when vaccines are more widely available to everyone,” said one of the sources about the shift in policy. In a televised address to the nation last week, President Biden targeted July 4 as Independence Day from most Coronavirus restrictions.
The White House has declined to comment on the rumors while the sources say the administration still needs some convincing that it will be safe to ease travel restrictions in just two months time.
The President’s Coronavirus Task Force is said to be most concerned about new COVID-19 variants being imported from abroad which could impact an otherwise successful vaccination program. The easily transmissible variant first discovered in the UK is said to be driving a third wave of infections in Europe, while Brazil is also fighting a surge in case numbers.
Just before leaving office, former President Trump had wanted to lift the international bans, saying that he had based his decision on the advice of the then Secretary of Health and Human Services who was confident that pre-departure testing would help prevent air travelers from importing and spreading the COVID-19 virus in the United States.
The travel bans were to be lifted on January 26 but within days of taking office, President Biden reimposed the travel bans saying that it wasn’t the time to think about traveling.
“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” commented White House press secretary Jen Psaki at the time.
Through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the administration has tried to convince American to put off travel – a message that is being heeded less and less. Passenger numbers have hit started to hit new pandemic records according to TSA data while airlines are reporting healthy booking trends for the months ahead.
A mid-May reopening would coincide with a planned easing of travel restrictions in the UK and Europe. The closure of the border with Canada, however, is being driven by the Trudeau administration who wants to keep the border shut until more Canadian’s have been vaccinated.
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Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.