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The Hill: Pressure grows on Biden to ease travel bans

The American newspaper "The Hill" reported that the administration of US President Joe Biden is under pressure to ease the travel ban on international tourists that was originally put in place to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The newspaper said - in a report on its website today, Tuesday, that with Europe opening its borders to American tourists and increasing vaccination rates in the United States, public health experts and travel industry groups say it is time to resume international travel.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the United States was looking to medical experts' advice on the best course of action, but that a group of US and European officials were working together to reach a deal.

But critics say the administration needs to move faster, criticizing the travel ban as unrelated to the spread of COVID-19 and raising concerns about lost revenue from international business travel, summer vacations and international students trying to arrive before the fall semester.

The newspaper quoted Steve Shore, president of the Travel Technology Association, a trade organization that partners with online travel agents, airlines and hotels, as saying that the administration's travel ban "freezes over time."

"We believe it is now possible, at least for low-risk countries, to begin reopening international travel" to the United States, he said.

Travel to the United States from abroad has been largely closed, with exceptions for US citizens returning from abroad, family members of US citizens, and members of exempt groups such as international students.

The entry ban targets travelers from China, Iran, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil and South Africa. In April, President Biden banned travel from India as COVID-19 cases rose in the country.

But experts say picking and choosing countries on the basis of COVID-19 infection is arbitrary because the epidemic, including the more dangerous delta variant, is already entrenched in the United States.

Lawrence Justin, director of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, noted that by the time the COVID-19 virus became widespread and international interest increased in India or Brazil, travelers from these countries were already coming and going through the United States.

Justin urged the administration to think more innovatively about putting in place measures to allow international travel while incorporating public health safety measures.

"The safest way for a traveler to come to the United States is to come fully immunized with an effective vaccine," he said. "I think using a vaccine passport system - and if someone is not vaccinated a very recent corona test result will be important to make sure the United States is safe."

"If we want to return to normal anywhere, we cannot live in a bubble. We will have to start international travel, tourism and trade, as other countries realize. But we want to do it safely," he added.

The Hill noted that while the European Union opened its borders last month to American tourists, the United States has made no announcements of a mutual decision.