After 20 months, the United States reopens its borders to foreigners

The United States reopened its land and air borders yesterday to foreign visitors vaccinated against Covid-19, ending 20 months of travel restrictions that separated families, damaged tourism and strained diplomatic ties with much of the world.

The ban, imposed by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 and upheld by his successor Joe Biden, has been widely criticized and became emblematic of the upheavals caused by the pandemic.

Dozens of crossings on the US-Mexico border reopened to non-essential travel after a 20-month shutdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, although life has yet to return to normal along the nearly 3,200-kilometer strip. .

Before the reopening, hundreds of cars lined up for miles in the Mexican border city Tijuana, while queues at pedestrian crossings grew steadily.

At airports in Europe, passengers queued to board planes bound for the east coast of the United States, while long lines of cars were seen before dawn at the borders with Mexico and Canada.

The restrictions did not apply to most Latin American countries, whose residents traveled en masse to the United States since the beginning of the year to get immunized as soon as the first vaccines began to be distributed. Now, in fact, many might have a hard time getting in.

However, the doors were closed, and now open, for visitors from much of the world, in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19. The list included the 26 European countries of the Schengen Area, as well as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, China, Iran, South Africa and India.

Entry by land or by ferry from Canada and Mexico was also prohibited.

Dollar shortage

Along the US-Mexico border, many cities struggled financially due to anticovid trade restrictions.

In anticipation of the reopening, the currency exchange centers of Ciudad Juárez, in Mexico, were affected by the shortage of dollars.

The government of Ciudad Juárez launched a special system to direct traffic, which includes the installation of portable toilets on the three bridges that cross into the United States “since waiting times of up to four hours are estimated,” said the director of road safety, César Alberto Tapia.

Meanwhile, in the United States’ northern neighbor, seniors will be able to resume their annual trips to Florida “to escape the bitter Canadian winters.”

Before the sun rose, cars and RVs lined the Rainbow Bridge between Niagara Falls and New York.

But the cost of PCR testing that Canada requires for cross-border travel – up to $ 250 – can be prohibitive.

Restrictions remain

The lifting of the travel ban will affect more than 30 countries, but entry to the United States will not be fully open.

US authorities plan to closely monitor the vaccination status of travelers and will continue to require them to submit negative Covid-19 test results.

The reopening will take place in two phases. As of yesterday, proof of vaccination is required for “non-essential” trips – such as family visits or tourism – although unvaccinated travelers will continue to be allowed to enter the country for “essential” trips.

A second phase, which will begin in early January, will require all visitors to be fully vaccinated to enter the United States by land, regardless of the reason for their travel.

All vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted for entry by air.

Impact in Latin America

Many travelers from Latin America and the Caribbean may have difficulties entering, either because they have not had access to the vaccine or because they were not vaccinated with immunizers approved by the United States.

For example, vaccines such as the Russian Sputnik V and the Chinese CanSino still do not have a green light from the FDA or the WHO, although they have been applied in several Latin American countries. (With information from AFP and Reuters)

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