U.S. to keep existing COVID-19 travel restrictions

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Most travelers respect the proactive safety efforts of airlines but are anxious for things to get back to normal

Masking up on airplanes, buses, trains, and boats won’t be changing anytime soon. A White House official told CNN on Monday that pandemic-related travel restrictions are staying in effect, mostly because of the growing number of cases connected to the Delta variant.

"Given where we are today with the Delta variant, the United States will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point," the official said, adding that the White House speculates that the rise in positive coronavirus cases will "likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead."

Both here and abroad

The official indicated that the travel restrictions are also putting a damper on international travel, citing a recent advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that recommends not traveling to the United Kingdom until its current surge in cases starts to decline.

For the moment, the U.S. currently bans most non-U.S. citizens who have visited the U.K. in the last 14 days, as well as those traveling from Brazil, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran, and the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls (Austria, Belgium, Finland, et al).

"The administration understands the importance of international travel and is united in wanting to reopen international travel in a safe and sustainable manner," the White House official said. "The reopening process is guided by the science and public health."

By all indications, the Biden team is doing its best to open things up for travelers. To the administration’s credit, it’s doing its best to get every important player on the same page. Thus far, the White House COVID-19 response team has brought together agencies like the CDC, Homeland Security, and the Department of State. It has also created interagency groups with the European Union, Britain, Canada, and Mexico to work on a plan of how and when travel and border restrictions could be lifted.

Travelers seem to be ok with staying masked up

Despite the headline-making horror stories about passengers acting up on flights, a new survey from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) suggests that most air travelers support mask-wearing in the near term. 

The survey of 4,700 travelers in 11 markets around the world showed that 83% of the passengers strongly support mask-wearing onboard, and 86% support the strict enforcement of mask rules. However, a majority also believe the mask requirement should be ended as soon as possible.

“Air travelers recognize and value the safety measures put in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission during air travel. And they support the continuation of these measures as long as necessary, but they also don’t want the measures to become permanent,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

“In the meantime, we all need to respect the rules and the safety of fellow passengers. It is unacceptable that unruly passenger incidents have doubled compared to 2019, and the increase in physically abusive behavior is a particular cause for great concern.”

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