White House Considers Lifting Entry Restrictions on Europeans
A Transportation Security Administration agent sits behind a barrier while screening travelers at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. (Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg)

White House Considers Lifting Entry Restrictions on Europeans

Several federal agencies have recommended that the White House lift an entry ban on non-U.S. citizens arriving from Europe put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The organizations, which participate in the White House Coronavirus Task Force, have signed off on lifting the restrictions, said two people who were briefed on the discussions. The limits have helped lead to a more than 90% reduction in the lucrative trans-Atlantic flight market.

The restrictions were imposed by the Homeland Security Department after a presidential proclamation on March 11. It applied to 28 European nations and was expanded to Brazil on May 25. The department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

It’s unclear whether White House officials, including President Donald Trump, will go along with lifting the ban or what the timing of a decision will be, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue. The nation is currently experiencing record high infection rates and growing deaths.

The immediate impact of such an action on airlines is also not known. Most European nations have imposed quarantines on arriving passengers, which has severely limited those who want to travel to and from the region.

The White House declined to comment. The Department of Transportation, which was said to have signed off on lifting the restrictions, didn’t respond to a request for comment on its position.

“The Department stands ready to support the safe resumption of international flights to and from the U.S.,” the DOT said in an emailed statement. “Conversations are ongoing between the federal government, international partners, and industry stakeholders on these matters.”

Consideration of such a move was reported earlier by Reuters.

Two other people briefed on the discussions, who also asked not to be named, said they were aware of attempts to lift the Homeland Security travel limitations as part of a broader effort to help revive the struggling airline industry.

The justification for ending or limiting the restrictions is that infections are now so widespread that travel from one country to another isn’t considered a major source of spread, said one of the persons briefed on discussions.

“We have been advocating for the federal government to set a national standard on testing in order to lift travel restrictions,” the trade group for large U.S. carriers, Airlines for America, said in a statement.

The airline industry in recent months has been proposing various methods to safely reopen travel markets. They include trials in which passengers would be tested for the coronavirus before boarding and using virus tests after arrival to lower or eliminate quarantines.

Carriers have also insisted that it’s safe to fly during the pandemic as a result of aircraft disinfection, air conditioning that removes the virus and mask usage. Scientists caution that the data remains uncertain.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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