Scenes of joy as first visitors arrive in US after 20-month ban

  • Published
Related Topics
Media caption,

Watch: Emotional families reunite as US lifts travel ban

The first foreign travellers have arrived at US airports, eager to reunite with family and loved ones after a 20-month Covid-19 travel ban.

The US on Monday reopened its borders to double-jabbed visitors, ending the restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump in March 2020.

The travel limitations have affected non-US citizens from over 30 countries, including the UK and EU, separating families and stalling tourism.

A flood of visitors landed on Monday.

"It feels good, it feels good!" Jerome Thomann, head of Paris-based travel agency Jetset Voyages told Reuters news agency, saying his team had seen an "incredible upturn" in bookings.

Restrictions have been lifted for those who are fully vaccinated, and undergo testing and contact tracing.

Two flights from London's Heathrow airport landed in New York City - marking the return of one of the world's busiest flight paths.

Travellers arriving at John F Kennedy airport were greeted by applause, balloons and cookies.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Kushnahar Begum is reunited with her grandson in New York City
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Couples and families celebrate seeing each other again at New York's John F Kennedy airport

New York City last month launched an aggressive advertising campaign meant to draw foreign visitors back, in the hopes that a surge of tourism dollars will help revive its economy.

The rules barred entry to most non-US citizens who had been in the UK and a number of other European countries, as well as China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

Under the new rules, foreign travellers will need to show proof of vaccination before flying, get a negative Covid-19 test result within three days of travelling, and hand over their contact information. They will not have to quarantine.

Alison Henry, a 63-year-old British mother, told AFP news agency: "It's been so hard - I just want to see my son."

Ms Henry, from Cheshire, plans to fly to New York on Monday to see her son for the first time in 20 months.

The US land borders with neighbours Canada and Mexico will also reopen for the fully vaccinated.

Thousands of migrants have arrived in areas along Mexico's border with the US, hoping to take advantage of the newly relaxed rules.

In southern Mexico, a new caravan of thousands of mainly Central American migrants - many of them children - has crossed from Chiapas to Oaxaca state, with the ultimate aim of reaching the border and being accepted into the US.

The Migrant Alliance Group, a Mexico-based advocacy group, has warned that false information is being spread about the new rules in some communities - with many asylum seekers assuming that they will now receive more favourable treatment from border officials.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Monday is expected to be filled with such reunions of long-separated loved ones

Businesses in cities along the border with Mexico are hoping for a boost after struggling under America's Covid restrictions.

United Airlines says it expects a 50% rise in international inbound passengers, while Delta's chief executive Ed Bastian warned travellers to expect queues.

Mr Bastian said: "It's going to be a bit sloppy at first. I can assure you, there will be lines unfortunately."

The EU recommended allowing American travellers into the bloc in June, while visitors from the US have been able to travel to the UK since 28 July.