By Yunese Amatya
On November 8, 2021, the United States ended an international travel ban that had been set in place over a year and a half ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those aged 18 and above are now permitted to travel with proof of full vaccination and a mask. To enter or return to the US, travelers now must have a recent negative COVID-19 test and proof of vaccination.
The international travel ban was first put into effect by former President Donald Trump and was expanded by current President Joe Biden. Travel was restricted in 33 countries, including the UK, Brazil, and China. Though much of Europe eased restrictions on travel in early spring, much of the continent still remained prohibited under the US international travel ban. While American citizens and permanent residents were always allowed to return to the US, tourists were fully prohibited from entering America. This caused many families to become separated from each other and brought about a toll on the tourism industry, plummeting the sales of hotels, businesses, and airlines.
Since the ban was lifted, many airlines’ bookings have surged, American Airlines reporting over 70% capacity with countries such as the UK and Brazil. Carriers are increasing flights between the UK and the US by over 21% this month, according to analytics firm Cirium. A Virgin Atlantic representative stated that flights to the US were at 98% capacity and many other airlines reported similar statistics. Airlines expect to return to a pre-pandemic schedule in early 2022.
Due to the former restrictions, many families were unable to see each other for lengthy periods of time. Since the prohibitions on international travel have relaxed, families have begun reuniting, some for the first time in nearly 20 months. Businesses and stores with international staff are beginning to hold meetings face to face with employees from different countries present. While easing restrictions has brought up emotions of elation and instances of relief for families, businesses, and the tourism industry itself, quarantine and testing are becoming difficult for many. With parents missing work and children leaving school for extended periods, quarantine does not serve as a practical option for many families, despite its necessity. Testing is yet another concern, as COVID-19 tests in the US remain costly. A mobile testing truck in New York charges over 200 dollars for testing results in 30 minutes and 160 dollars for results the next day.
However, many cities have established creative solutions to these issues of accessibility. Recently, free and rapid COVID-19 testing sites have been introduced throughout the nation, even in downtown Monterey. Our local farmer’s market, for example, holds rapid COVID-19 testing free every Tuesday. Testing opportunities abiding by regulations, however, remain limited to many, bringing to light concerns regarding the practicality of abiding by health regulations for families throughout the nation.
Despite the arising concerns, however, the end to the international travel ban has been a cause for celebration for many families and businesses as a major milestone of the COVID-19 pandemic has been reached.