Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo pushing to lift tough US travel restrictions

The White House has repeatedly ruled out a national vaccine passport.
The White House has repeatedly ruled out a national vaccine passport.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Monday (July 12) she is pressing for the easing of coronavirus restrictions that bar much of the world from travelling to the United States but that US health officials remain concerned about more outbreaks.

Dozen of US business groups, lawmakers and officials from foreign governments are urging President Joe Biden's administration to relax tough restrictions put in place under former President Donald Trump.

"We're working it," Ms Raimondo told Reuters in an interview. "I'm pushing really hard."

She said she met with US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Friday but had no information on when a decision could be made.

"The CDC is nervous, and it's hard to know if people are vaccinated," she said. "There's no vaccine passport that's reliable, and that's kind of a big hurdle."

The White House says it is continuing discussions with the European Union, Britain, Canada and Mexico on how to eventually lift restrictions, but US officials say they still have no timetable and travel industry officials think the restrictions may not be lifted until August or later.

The White House has repeatedly ruled out a national vaccine passport.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has joined Ms Raimondo in pushing for lifting restrictions, according to sources familiar with the discussions, but others in the administration remain worried that opening the door to more travellers from abroad could lead to increases in Covid-19 infection rates.

A spokeswoman for Mr Becerra had no immediate comment on the meeting with Ms Raimondo.

Airlines and others are urging the administration to lift restrictions covering most non-US citizens who have recently been in Britain, the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

The United States also bars non-essential travellers from crossing into the United States from the Canadian or Mexican land borders.

European diplomats and others argue that the list of countries with severe travel restrictions includes some with low infection rates, while others with high infection rates, including Argentina, face no restrictions.