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U.S. lifts COVID-19 border restrictions for vaccinated travelers

Travelers are seen at Heathrow Airport in London. The first passenger planes with travelers headed for the U.S. left Heathrow for New York City on Monday. File Photo by Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE
Travelers are seen at Heathrow Airport in London. The first passenger planes with travelers headed for the U.S. left Heathrow for New York City on Monday. File Photo by Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE

Nov. 8 (UPI) -- After nearly two years of strict border and travel restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government on Monday is lifting those restrictions for travelers from a long list of countries.

The United States is lifting the restrictions for air travelers from more than 30 nations who show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test. For those crossing U.S. borders by land in Canada and Mexico, they only need to show proof of vaccination.

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U.S. citizens returning to the country don't have to show proof of vaccination, but those who don't must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day.

Monday's change allows travel from 33 nations, mostly in Europe, including Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Britain.

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The travel restriction had been in place for 19 months, since the early days of the global health emergency. Former President Donald Trump first imposed the restriction and President Joe Biden added nations to the list early this year.

United Airlines said it expects 50% more inbound foreign passengers on Monday than it saw a week ago, and Delta Air Lines expects many of its international flights Monday to be full, CNBC reported.

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According to Airfare-tracking website Hopper, searches for international flights to the United States have more than quadrupled since the government announced in September that it would lift the ban on Monday.

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The ban has so far cost the travel industry billions of dollars, and Monday's move comes ahead of the heavy holiday travel season.

"Monday begins in earnest the return of international travel when long-separated families and friends can safely reunite, travelers can explore this amazing country, and the U.S. is able to reconnect with the global community," U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow told The New York Times.

"It is a monumental day for travelers, for the communities and businesses that rely on international visitation and for the U.S. economy overall."

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The first passenger planes with travelers aboard British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights from London's Heathrow Airport to New York City took off before dawn Monday.

British Airways shared photos of the first flights from the carrier and rival Virgin Atlantic on Twitter. It said they should arrive in New York before noon.

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Some locations, though, may not see all the benefits of the border reopening.

Canada's requirement for having a negative polymerase chain reaction test may slow the usually bustling crossing between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit. Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said such tests can cost Canadians about $200 each.

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