The United States reopened its borders for fully vaccinated travelers from dozens of countries on Monday, ending more than 18 months of restrictions on international travel that left families separated from loved ones and cost the global travel industry hundreds of billions of dollars in tourism revenue.
Under the new rules, fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter the U.S. if they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three calendar days of travel. Unvaccinated Americans and children under the age of 18 are exempt from the requirement, but must take a test within one day of travel.
The shift has come in time for the holiday season, when the beleaguered tourism industry is eagerly awaiting an influx in international visitors, especially in popular big-city destinations like New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The extended ban on travel from 33 countries — including European Union members, China, India and Iran — devastated the sector and resulted in losses of nearly $300 billion in visitor spending and more than one million American jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
“Monday begins in earnest the return of international travel, when long-separated families and friends can safely reunite, travelers can explore this amazing country, and the U.S. is able to reconnect with the global community,” said Roger Dow, the Association’s president and chief executive officer. “It is a monumental day for travelers, for the communities and businesses that rely on international visitation, and for the U.S. economy overall.”
Airlines saw a big spike in online searches and ticket bookings for international travel — particularly from Europe and Latin America — after the administration announced its plans to ease the travel restrictions in September.
American Airlines said bookings over the three days after the announcement were up 66 percent for flights between Britain and the United States, 40 percent for those from Europe and 74 percent for Brazil, compared to a similar period a week earlier. United Airlines said that it sold more tickets for trans-Atlantic flights in the days after the announcement than during a similar period in 2019, a first since the pandemic began.
Delta Air Lines said that many of its international flights on Monday were fully booked. The carrier’s first flight into the United States under the looser restrictions, DL106, is expected to arrive from São Paulo, Brazil, at 9:35 a.m. on Monday, in Atlanta. By the end of Monday, Delta expects to fly 139 mostly full planes from 38 countries into the U.S.
Hotels across the country, particularly those in cities, also felt the impact of the reopening announcement, with increased bookings and interest over the holiday season. Hyatt, the hotel group, said that approximately 50 percent of its bookings by international travelers to the U.S. for the week of Nov. 8 came after the date was announced in mid-October, with travelers flocking to top cities.
The chef Daniel Boulud, who owns several restaurants in New York City, said that customers from overseas had already started to call for reservations or to go on a waiting list.
He added that while his restaurants were already “quite busy,” buoyed by domestic tourism and a trickle of international visitors, “the faucet was not open for tourism yet.” International tourists, he said, will bring necessary foot traffic, in particular to his restaurants near the Theater District.
Many of the airplanes departing for the United States over the coming weeks will be full of travelers reuniting with family and friends after more than a year apart. Felicity Fowler, a retired homeopath from London, missed the birth of her grandson. He was born in New York in April; she hasn’t seen her daughter, his mother, since February 2020 .
“It’s been emotional torture to be so far away from my girl at a time when she has needed me the most,” she said in an interview. “We need to make up for lost time.”
While demand is up, the changes have not had a major immediate effect on the number of scheduled international flights. In the first week under the relaxed rules, airlines will operate an average 1,390 daily flights into the United States, up just 35 daily flights from the week before, according to figures from Cirium, an aviation data provider. The data does not, however, indicate how many seats have been sold per flight and the number of daily flights is expected to rise again, by 40, in the second week after reopening.
With the continued risks of coronavirus variants and uncertainty of the course of the pandemic, the U.S. Travel Association does not expect international inbound travel to recover to 2019 levels until at least 2024.
On Monday, the United States will lift travel restrictions for international travelers from 33 countries who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, ending an 18-month ban that has separated families and loved ones worldwide and taken a toll on the tourism industry. The reopening comes just ahead of the holiday season, and airlines are anticipating some chaos.
The complicated set of regulations may shift if new waves or variants of the virus emerge, but here is what we know right now about the long-awaited reopening.
Who is eligible to travel to the United States?
Under the new rules, fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter the United States if they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three calendar days of travel. Unvaccinated Americans and children under 18 are exempt from the requirement, but must take a coronavirus test within 24 hours of travel.
What vaccines are accepted?
The three available in the United States — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are accepted, as well as any of those cleared for emergency use by the World Health Organization: AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm and Sinovac.
Who is considered “fully vaccinated”?
Anyone who has received either the first dose of a single-dose vaccine or the second dose of a two-dose vaccine a full 14 days before the day they board a flight to the United States is considered fully vaccinated.
It does not matter if you received these doses in a clinical trial, as long as you did not receive the placebo. People who received their second shot of the Novavax vaccine in a Phase 3 clinical trial are also fully vaccinated.
Lastly, the C.D.C. considers anyone fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of an accepted “mix-and-match” vaccine, with the doses given at least 17 days apart. The agency notes it does not recommend mixing and matching during the first series of vaccination (for example, the first two shots of an mRNA vaccine), but acknowledges this strategy is more common internationally.
What do I need to pack as proof of my vaccination?
Both paper and digital records of vaccination will be accepted. If you do not have your original record, such as a vaccination card, a copy or photo will also work. Any proof of vaccination must include your full name and at least one more identifier, such as date of birth and the name of the agency or provider issuing the vaccine. It must also include the vaccine manufacturer and dates of vaccination.
Are the rules different at land border crossings?
As of Nov. 8, the U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico will reopen for fully vaccinated foreign nationals. While visitors will need to show proof of vaccination, there is no testing requirement for land-border crossings. Children under 18 are allowed entry if accompanied by a vaccinated adult.
Will I have to show proof of vaccination to fly domestically?
No. As of Nov. 8., only those entering the United States from abroad will have to show a vaccination certificate and proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure. Unvaccinated U.S. travelers are permitted to travel, but upon returning must present a coronavirus test taken within 24 hours of departure.
Masks continue to be required for domestic air travel.
What about children?
Unvaccinated children under 18 are permitted to enter the United States if they are over 2 years old, are traveling with a vaccinated adult and have taken a coronavirus test with negative results within three days of departure. If a child is traveling alone or with an unvaccinated adult, he or she will have to test within 24 hours of travel.
Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, will relax many virus restrictions nearly 12 weeks into its lockdown, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced at a news conference on Monday.
The easing of restrictions comes as the country records some of its highest daily case numbers since the pandemic began, with a record 206 cases reported on Saturday.
Starting before midnight on Tuesday, Auckland will allow the reopening of nonessential retail outlets and of public facilities like libraries, museums and zoos. Patrons will not be required to be vaccinated, though masks and physical-distancing restrictions will be in place. Up to 25 people will be permitted to gather outdoors, as well as for funerals and weddings.
Auckland, home to roughly a third of New Zealand’s population, went into a snap lockdown on Aug. 17 after a single case of the Delta variant was identified in the city.
The resulting outbreak has proved impossible to quash, prompting an end to the Covid-zero strategy that for most of the pandemic had allowed New Zealanders to live with few restrictions. The outbreak is largely contained to Auckland.
As of Sunday, more than 90 percent of eligible people ages 12 and older across the Auckland region had received at least one dose of a vaccine, Ms. Ardern said. The government expects to hit its target of 90 percent fully vaccinated around Nov. 29, she added, allowing it to move to a new system in which vaccination certificates will be required to access many services in the city.
“It will mean all businesses can be open and operate, it will mean we will manage Covid safely, but differently,” Ms. Ardern said.
Some health professionals had called for restrictions to remain in place, citing the disproportionate effect of the virus on New Zealand’s Indigenous Maori population, which makes up 37 percent of all cases in the outbreak despite constituting less than 17 percent of the wider population.
As a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic crashed over Eastern Europe last month, devastating unvaccinated populations, an Orthodox Church bishop in southern Romania offered solace to his flock: “Don’t be fooled by what you see on TV — don’t be scared of Covid.”
Most important, Bishop Ambrose of Giurgiu told worshipers on Oct. 14 in the small town of Copaceni, “Don’t rush to get vaccinated.”
The bishop is now under criminal investigation by the police for spreading dangerous disinformation, but his anti-vaccine clarion call, echoed by prominent politicians, influential voices on the internet and many others, helps explain why Romania has in recent weeks reported the world’s highest per capita death rate from Covid-19.
On Tuesday, nearly 600 Romanians died, the most during the pandemic. The country’s death rate relative to population is almost seven times as high as that of the United States, and almost 17 times as high as Germany’s.
Vaccine hesitancy, stoked by powerful forces online and in the real world, has left Romania with Europe’s second-lowest vaccination rate; around 44 percent of adults have had at least one dose, ahead of only Bulgaria, at 29 percent. Overall, the European Union stands at 81 percent, with several countries above 90 percent. Complicating matters, Romania has been without a government since last month, when a centrist coalition unraveled.