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AMERICAS: USA & CHILE OPEN THE DOORS TO VACCINATED TRAVELLERS

Almost at the same time, both Chili and the United States have announced they are reopening their borders to foreign visitors for non-essential travel – a further sign of a “normalisation” of travel conditions.

It was the end of June and the European Union had recommended to its members to reopen its borders to US travellers. A successful vaccination campaign in the USA combined with low contamination figures were behind the decision. However, there was no reciprocity at that time, the White House press secretary claiming then that β€œthe more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both in Europe and around the world,” adding that the increase in cases was β€œlikely to continue in the weeks ahead.”

Three months later, the much expected announcement of the US administration finally happened. Come early November, the USA will allow non-resident foreign travellers to again visit the USA for non-essential reasons, including, of course, tourism. The announcement will however concern a limited number of countries: only 33 around the world including most of Europe, Brazil, India, Iran, South Africa and China.

Some restrictions will apply: the USA will only admit fully vaccinated air travellers. The US restrictions were in place since March 2020. And only air passengers will also be allowed in. In fact, the USA continues to ban non-essential travellers from entering the country at land borders with Canada and Mexico.

Visitors will have to show that they have been fully vaccinated and undergo a PCR test taken 72 hours prior to flying. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also require airlines to collect contact information from travellers to facilitate contact tracing once in the country. There has been no announcement regarding which kind of vaccinations will be acknowledged by the US administration.

The announcement has been greeted by most countries in Europe and by the airline industry. Some airlines such as Lufthansa or British Airways have seen, within hours of the announcement, their bookings to the USA jumping by at least 40%. UK Virgin Atlantic mentioned even a jump of 600% overnight following the US decision.

Chile reopens… with conditions

Lesser known by travel professionals around the world is the fact that the the Chilean government is also simplifying entry conditions. Chile has been tightly closed to international tourism since April 2021 following a virulent second wave of Covid-19 in the country.

The country has conducted a successful vaccination campaign, with 74% of the population being fully vaccinated by September 20. This makes Chilean citizens among the top 10 most vaccinated in the world, far ahead of the USA or Canada. The government has consequently decided it will be reopening to international tourism from October 1st.

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (photo by Olga Stalska / Unsplash)

Entry to Chile by air will be possible through the airports serving Iquique, Antofagasta, and Santiago de Chile.

However, entry conditions will be more complicated than in the United States, as the government is still imposing some rules. Foreign non-residents will be required to show a negative PCR Covid-19 test taken 72 hours before the flight, show a proof of vaccination, have a medical travel insurance… and still undergo a mandatory five-day quarantine. The vaccination certificate will also need to be validated by the Chilean Ministry of Health – a requirement which could take up to a month. Once the vaccination validated, travellers will need to be recorded on an application and obtain a mobility pass to have complete freedom, once their five-day quarantine completed.

Unvaccinated tourists will not be able to enter the country for tourism, including children. The new procedure has not been welcomed by the Chilean Association of Airlines (ACHILA), which is pushing for the full removal of quarantine regulations for fully vaccinated travellers.

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