US opens doors to international travelers

The U.S. opened its doors to international travelers on Monday after more than 18 months of COVID-19 restrictions, and some airports across the world celebrated the milestone with pomp and circumstance.

Starting Monday, fully vaccinated international travelers will be permitted to enter the U.S. as long as they show proof of inoculation and present a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within three days of travel. The new policy, which was first announced last month, applies to both land borders and air travel.

Travelers can be inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, all of which are authorized in the U.S., in addition to shots approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, including AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm and Sinovac, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The vaccine and test requirement does not apply to unvaccinated Americans and children younger than 18 years old, but both groups are mandated to present a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within 24 hours of traveling.

Travelers celebrated the new travel guidelines throughout the world on Monday.

At Heathrow Airport in London, employees welcomed passengers into the facility by waving American flags, according to The New York Times. Passengers at the airport who were boarding Virgin Atlantic flights were also greeted by performers dressed in red, white and blue garb.

Also at Heathrow, rival airlines British Airways and Virgin Atlantic commemorated the milestone day by synchronizing the departure times of both their flights to New York. The two aircraft took off at the same time on parallel runways, according to The Associated Press.

At airports across Europe, excited groups of passengers lined up to board planes headed for the U.S., Agence France-Presse reported.

In Mexico and Canada, masked pedestrians, cars and motor homes were reportedly crowding along the countries’ borders with the U.S. as travelers prepared to enter the U.S.

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Some passengers became emotional when preparing to board flights to the U.S. to reunite with family members after more than 18 months of isolation due to the pandemic.

One woman, Bernadette Sumners, 56, told the Times that she was taking her first flight since the beginning of the pandemic on Monday, traveling from Stratford-on-Avon, England, to the U.S. to visit her children in Oregon and New York, and to meet her grandchildren.

“It’s very stressful, but I know it’s going to be worth it when I see my children and meet my grandchildren,” Sumners told the newspaper while tearing up as she waited to receive her COVID-19 test result via email in order to board the flight.