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House Democrat proposes bill requiring Covid-19 vaccines for air travel and Amtrak

People traveling through US airports and on all planes operating in the US would have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or test negative for the disease within 72 hours of travel under legislation proposed by a Democratic lawmaker in the House of Representatives.

A bill proposed by US Rep Don Beyer – the “Safe Travel Act” – would impose vaccine requirements for domestic air travel as well as travel on Amtrak, the passenger rail service. The requirements would also apply to staff.

His bill would direct the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration “to take such actions as are necessary” to require travelers and staff provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test.

It’s a long-shot measure that would likely face stiff Republican opposition – a group of GOP senators have also endorsed banning mask and vaccine mandates – but it follows a trend among US businesses, institutions and federal agencies to require workers get the jab as the disease and more-contagious variants have caused a surge hospitalisations, severe illness and death.

Several airline companies have already required staff to be vaccinated, while Amtrak has set a 1 November goal to vaccinate all of its employees.

Delta is requiring its new hires to be vaccinated and announced a health insurance subcharge for employees who are not.

Frontier Airlines also imposed a deadline of 1 October for its employees to be vaccinated, and United – the first major airline to issue vaccine requirements – has also imposed an October deadline for all of its 67,000 employees to be inoculated against the coronavirus.

“Requiring airport and Amtrak travelers and employees to provide a proof of Covid vaccine or negative test is just common sense,” Rep Beyer said in a statement.

“These are easy steps we can take to make travel safer, as companies like United have already demonstrated with responsible policy changes,” he said. “Americans want a return to normal that includes traveling for business or pleasure, and Congress can help make people comfortable traveling again by putting basic requirements in place that prevent the spread of Covid.”

The introduction of Rep Beyer’s bill comes as Joe Biden’s administration prepares to issue vaccine requirements for all federal workers and contractors, without an option to test out, a measure that would impact roughly 2.5 million people and potentially trigger wider vaccine requirements.

The US Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for people ages 16 and older, marking the first of three available US vaccines to be granted the status following their initial approval for emergency use.

That approval also triggered a wave of vaccine requirements at businesses and institutions whose policies relied on the FDA’s full approval, and health officials expected the move to push hesitant Americans who have waited for the FDA to weigh in before they got their jab.

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