A 9/11 Homeland Security expert is leading calls for President Biden to lift the ‘outdated’ ban on travel from the UK and Europe which is ‘stuck in time’, decimating the economy and no longer makes sense when most of the world’s tourists can freely come to America.
Since March 2020, the US border has been closed to 26 European countries, the UK, Ireland, Iran, China and South Africa because of COVID fears. They were the countries with the worst outbreaks at the start of the pandemic. India, which is experiencing a terrifying COVID outburst – is now also on the list and so is Brazil.
People from any other country can fly to the US, so long as they have a valid visa and a negative COVID-19 test, and Americans can also enter the US from anywhere in the world so long as they also test negative.
That includes traveling from countries like some in Africa, where the vaccine roll-out is barely off the ground, and Nepal, where a frightening new variant has been detected.
Unlike in March last year, when the proclamation was put in place, the US is on track to have vaccinated 70 percent of its population by July. The UK has vaccinated half of its citizens and Americans are allowed to travel there. Europe is also launching vaccine passports that will allow Americans to travel there. Many countries like Greece and Italy are already open to Americans.
The ongoing ban on open travel to the US from Europe and the UK in particular – which was previously the biggest source of inbound airline traffic – is stumping policy experts who say it is outdated and no longer makes sense.
Former Assistant Homeland Secretary C. Stewart Verdery Jr. is among those who says the ongoing ban is not only divorced from data, but that it is damaging the US economic recovery from COVID. Verdery Jr. worked in Homeland Security from 2003 and 2005. He was among officials who came up with new travel rules to adapt to the post 9/11 world.
In an interview with DailyMail.com on Thursday, he described how Biden’s policy is outdated, and why the reasons to excuse it before no longer stand.
People from any other country can fly to the US, so long as they have a valid visa and a negative COVID-19 test, and Americans can also enter the US from anywhere in the world so long as they also test negative. That includes traveling from countries like some in Africa, where the vaccine roll-out is barely off the ground, and Nepal, where a frightening new variant has been detected
‘I accept that they inherited a tricky situation. They inherited policies that were in place but there hasn’t been a re-look at them in light of the fact those countries have been leaders on vaccinations.
Former Assistant Homeland Secretary C. Stewart Verdery Jr. is among those who says the ongoing ban is not only divorced from data, but that it is damaging the US economic recovery from COVID
‘Especially among the traveling public – the chances of the average person who’s going to be traveling, being vaccinated, is 90 percent. On top of that you have the testing requirement.
‘You’ve got this odd situation where you van fly into the US from half the world regardless of their conditions or vaccine rollouts, then the other half of the world that are doing well, they’re not taking into consideration. It’s like they’re stuck in time.’
The ban was first implemented by Trump last March, at the very beginning of the crisis.
Shortly before he left office, Trump announced that he was lifting the ban. Biden reinstated it within a day or two of taking office.
Verdery said by doing so, he backed himself into a corner that now the administration is struggling to get out of.
‘Once they revoked Trump undoing it, they put themselves in a box. And unless there was a bulletproof plan that all of the doctors and advisers agreed on, they weren’t going to press ahead with it.
‘They backed themselves into a corner. I thought that corner might last a month or two, but not five,’ he said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be hopeful that Biden will reopen the border this summer and that they can discuss a UK/US travel corridor at the G7 from June 11 until June 13.
The White House is stonewalling journalists who ask about it and behind the scenes, experts say the Biden administration is hesitant to allow travel from one of the banned countries without allowing it to resume from all of them including India – where COVID-19 is spiraling out of control.
‘You’ve got this odd situation where you van fly into the US from half the world regardless of their conditions or vaccine rollouts, then the other half of the world that are doing well, they’re not taking into consideration. It’s like they’re stuck in time
Former Assistant Homeland Secretary C. Stewart Verdery Jr.
‘The government is trying to solve the whole problem, all of the challenges at once, recognizing variants as an issue.
‘Rather than starting with what they can, it seems like they want to conquer the whole issue and we think that from an economic standpoint, that will continue to damage the US economy. We know the science tells us that we can safely reopen with the UK. The process is moving forward and there are ongoing conversations but they are just not there yet.
‘We plan to continue to press on them that we can’t wait any more,’ Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the U.S. Travel Association, told DailyMail.com.
Verdery said that plan is flawed and the administration should go country by country.
‘We ought to be doing a country by country analysis on the health front just like we do on immigration and terrorism. I was in Homeland Security after 9/11…we had to rebuild all of our policies and look for the needle in the haystack – it took a while but our work with the Brits was at the forefront of that.
‘There is no reason to hold the British travel corridor hostage to facts on the ground in India. And this isn’t irreversible – if a country starts back-sliding, it can be changed again.’
One of the biggest issues is that the industry needs time to prepare.
‘We were asking in May for reopening in July and obviously that has passed… it will take some time. The businesses are looking now at what they can do but it’s not something that can turn on a dime.’
In May, the CEOs of 22 major airlines begged Biden to give them a timeline that would allow them to reopen in July.
They said there are multiple things to be considered like staffing airline routes, checking that fleets of planes which haven’t been used for months are still safe, replacing thousands of rental cars that have been sold, and bringing back hotel staff.
But their pleas were ignored from the White House, which is yet to offer a tentative end date for the ban.
Barnes revealed that if the US does not reopen international travel by the end of 2021 in some significant way, the US economy will lose 2million jobs and more than $400billion.
‘We’ve got to be able to move things forward. We really urge, respectfully, that our government looks at the science. It is vital that the global travel economy reopens,’ she added.
Americans are free to go on vacation to many foreign countries, including Europe, but no one from the banned countries can get into the US
Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched a $5million ad campaign to try to boost international tourism even though millions remain banned from the country
There are growing efforts to revive travel in the US but they will be severely hindered for as long as travel is banned from several countries.
On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo launched a $5million ad campaign to try to boost domestic and international travel to New York City – which has been financially and culturally decimated by the pandemic – but millions still won’t be able to visit because of the federal ban.
‘We’re starting an international ad campaign for tourism, New York is back and New York is the best and we want people to be a part of it.
The White House continues to fail to give any form of timeline for when the ban may be lifted despite Biden’s 70% vaccine goal in July
‘We want people coming to New York and we want them to know they are welcome, and we want them to come make us the venue for their reentry into living and thriving and enjoying once again.
‘Our message is: to domestic and international tourists, this is the place you want to visit. This is the one state where whatever you want to do, you can do it in this great state of New York.’
He didn’t give any explanation for how his plan would work while the border remains closed to millions of people around the world, and his office didn’t answer questions about it on Thursday.
The ban has created a nightmare scenario for immigrants and families who have been separated. Many haven’t seen their families for more than a year.
Others, whose visas in America have expired, won’t be able to leave the country even if the ban is lifted without an appointment at a US embassy abroad, and the appointments are backlogged for months.
The US embassy in London has just canceled all appointments between August and October. The soonest available appointments now are not until March 2022.
Some countries, like Australia, are not allowing citizens to travel for recreation.
Canada is also not allowing tourists from anywhere in the world. The only people who are eligible to enter are citizens. Non-essential travel to the US from Canada is also banned.
Montana Senator begs Biden and Trudeau to reopen the border for farmers who need it to make a living
Montana Senator Jon Tester is begging Biden and Trudeau to reopen the border for non-essential travel to allow people to make a living again
Montana Senator Jon Tester is begging Biden and Trudeau to reopen the border for non-essential travel to allow people to make a living again.
In an open letter, he said this week: ‘As a farmer in north central Montana, I hear often from my neighbors and others in the region about the negative impact the continued border closure has on their daily lives.
‘Each day that passes without resolution is a hit to family farmers and ranchers, small businesses, and the rural communities along the border.
‘I am pleased to see reports that U.S. and Canadian officials have begun preliminary discussions about reopening the border.
‘However, there are still no immediate plans to reopen the border and there has been no additional guidance on timing.
‘I urge you to work with the Canadian government to develop an actionable plan to reopen the northern border for all trade and travel in a timely manner.
‘Our governments must continue to work together to establish clear reopening thresholds and policies,’ he said.