Although Disney World may seem like crowds are returning to normal for many Americans, and planning a Disney vacation is yet again in reach as we continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic, it is not the same for many others in surrounding countries.
Many borders have remained closed with the United States and other countries for over a year, making it incredibly difficult or impossible for non-citizens to travel into the country. Now, the U.S. Travel Association, in which Disney is a member, has put together a blueprint urging the lift of border restrictions called “A Framework to Safely Lift Entry Restrictions and Restart International Travel.”
“The travel industry agrees that being guided by the science is absolutely the correct approach, and the science has been telling us for some time that it’s possible to begin to safely reopen international travel. Our document continues to prioritize safety while providing a roadmap for solving for the billions of dollars in economic damage resulting from the continued restrictions on crossing our borders—in particular from allied countries with similar vaccination rates. We have the knowledge and the tools we need to restart international travel safely, and it is past time that we use them.”
The announcement also noted that the loss of Canada, the European Union, and U.K. tourism causes the U.S. economy to lose $1.5 billion weekly, supporting 10,000 American jobs.
Below, you can take a look at the blueprint with the guiding principles listed, as well as short-term opportunities.
1. Reserve entry restrictions for only the highest-risk countries. Entry restrictions issued under section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act should be limited to those countries with a high prevalence of variants of concern that could threaten the efficacy of the vaccine or undermine the progress the United States has made to defeat COVID-19.
2. Replace all other blanket travel restrictions with a framework of risk-based entry protocols. Replace blanket travel restrictions with entry requirements that are based on an individual’s risk profile and a country’s epidemiological trends.
– Country-level risk assessment: Evaluate a country’s risk profile using the prevalence of variants of concern and other
internationally recognized public health indicators, such as trends in vaccination rates, new cases, and COVID-19 related
hospitalizations and deaths.
-Implement entry protocols based on individual risk profile: Using a country’s epidemiological risk assessment, implement
a tiered matrix of entry requirements based on each traveler’s individual risk profile (i.e. whether a person is fully vaccinated,
recently recovered from COVID-19 or unvaccinated).
3. Ensure the framework is easy to understand, communicate, and implement. The framework should be available to the public and use clear benchmarks and publicly accessible data to guide implementation. The inbound screening protocols should be easy to understand and implement.
1. Quickly lift entry restrictions and reopen travel between the U.S. and the United Kingdom (UK): The U.K. and the U.S. have similar vaccination rates, and travel between the two countries can be extremely low risk provided that travelers are vaccinated or can produce a test prior to boarding a flight. New research from the Mayo Clinic shows the risk of a person infected with COVID-19 boarding a flight from the UK to the U.S. is 1 out of 10,000. The same research shows that the risk of an infected passenger transmitting the virus to another passenger flying from the UK to the U.S. is even lower at 1 out of 1 million passengers.
2. Quickly allow fully vaccinated individuals from non-high-risk countries to enter the U.S. As an immediate first step, allow fully vaccinated individuals (with a WHO-approved vaccine) from non-high-risk countries (such as from the European Union) to enter the U.S. without proof of a negative COVID-19 test or recovery. The U.S. government should work with non-high-risk countries to quickly establish guidelines for verifying proof of vaccine status.
3. Ease entry restrictions by July 15, 2021, when the U.S. is forecast to achieve widespread immunity and sustained declines in infections and hospitalizations: High vaccination rates and immunity within the U.S. are the most effective tools for mitigating the risks of reopening international travel. Similarly, declining infections, hospitalizations, and deaths indicate that our nation has the public health capacity to absorb any risks associated with safely reopening international travel.
As noted in the short-term opportunities of the blueprint, the goal is to have all of these restrictions eased by July 15. As a Canadian who has had to travel amid the pandemic, I can say that although travel is difficult, it is getting easier.
The Canadian-U.S. land border remains closed. However, the air border is not closed, and Canadian’s can travel to and from the country. Previously, any Canadian leaving and entering the United States would not only need to present a negative COVID-19 test before leaving and re-entering the country, but they would need to quarantine at a government chosen hotel for up to three days until a negative test was received. The citizen would then need to complete the 14-day quarantine elsewhere. That hotel portion was estimated to cost $2,000.00, which made it impossible for many to travel.
Of course, it is not surprising to hear that Disney wants more Guests to visit their theme parks. Although Disneyland is not at full capacity, Disney World is continuously increasing its capacity, and with the 50th anniversary around the corner and over a year of a compromised Guest count, having travelers come to the theme park resort from around the world would give the Walt Disney Company a huge financial boost in their theme park division.
We will need to wait and see if any countries agree to what has been outlined in this blueprint and open their borders for travel.
What do you think of the “A Framework to Safely Lift Entry Restrictions and Restart International Travel” blueprint?