The U.S. House of Representatives voted to end a requirement that most foreign air travelers be vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the few remaining pandemic travel restrictions still in place. The vote comes as the White House plans to end the COVID public health emergency on 11 May.
Republican Representative Thomas Massie introduced the measure to rescind the vaccine requirement. The vote was 227 to 201, with seven Democrats joining Republicans. No Republicans voted against the bill.
The Biden administration had earlier dropped its requirement that people arriving in the United States by air must test negative for COVID but has yet to lift Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination requirements for most foreign travelers. The CDC says vaccines are the essential critical public health tool for fighting COVID-19 and recommends vaccinating all travelers.
The White House had stated it opposed the bill saying the vaccine requirement “has allowed loved ones across the globe to reunite while reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the burdens it places on the health care system in the United States. However, the White House plans to end the COVID public health emergency on May 11. “As we approach the end of the public health emergency, the administration will review all relevant policies, including this one,” the White House said.
After the House of Representatives vote and under the bill, non-US citizens will no longer be required to prove they have received at least two vaccine doses or an accepted single-dose shot before entering the United States. Reacting to the vote, the U.S. Travel Association weighed in on the issue through its Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes, who issued the following statement on the U.S. House passage of the bill to end the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention immediately requirement for proof of COVID-19 vaccination for international visitors to the United States.
“The need for this requirement has long since passed, and we appreciate the bipartisan action by the U.S. House to end this outdated policy. U.S. Travel also sees no reason to uphold the requirement until May, particularly as visitors worldwide plan spring and summer travel. The U.S. is the only country that has maintained this policy, putting at risk valuable visitor spending the longer it remains in place.”
The statement continues, “We thank the bill’s sponsors for their efforts and urge the Senate to pass this bill to normalize travel conditions and boost international arrivals as quickly as possible.”
Following in the U.S.’s footsteps, Singapore will soon allow non-fully vaccinated travelers to enter the country without a negative test. Japan is also reportedly set to ease COVID-19 border controls for people arriving from China. Following a surge in cases, the country tightened quarantine measures for everyone arrivingcoming from mainland China.
Reports suggest that testing on arrival for all travelers on direct flights from mainland China will likely change to a sample testing method. However, negative test results within 72 hours before their flights will still be required.