independent– Democrats are urging president Joe Biden to enforce vaccination mandates for air travel ahead of the holiday season, to prevent a surge of Covid-19 cases in the winter.
More than 68 per cent of those eligible in the US have received one vaccine shot, while 58.8 per cent are fully vaccinated.
In a letter to the president on 11 November, 36 Democratic lawmakers asked the president to mandate proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test report before boarding flights.
The mandate was a “necessary and long overdue step toward ensuring all Americans feel safe and confident while traveling”, they said.
The Democrats lauded the vaccination mandate for international air travel. “Applying similar strategies to domestic air travel would ensure Americans can travel safely to see their loved ones during the holidays while also limiting household introduction and spread of Covid-19 from visiting family and friends,” they said.
The letter also cited public health research and said that mandatory vaccination might push the unvaccinated to get fully vaccinated if it was a requirement to fly on a plane.
In addition, mandatory vaccinations can also help support the tourism industry, which has suffered losses of $35bn (£26bn) owing to travel restrictions imposed in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.
“Witnesses before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion testified that domestic business spending this year is projected to be just 57 per cent of their 2019 levels. It will take at least four years for the travel and tourism sectors to be restored to their pre-pandemic levels,” the letter said.
An estimate by the American Automobile Association predicts 53.4 million people are likely to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13 per cent from 2020.
The Democrats added that the hospitality industry’s recovery could also be supported through mandatory vaccinations, so Americans can feel safe in indoor spaces and while traveling by air.
The Centres for Disease Control in its holiday gathering recommendations said that the best way to minimise Covid-19 risk was to get fully vaccinated.
The letter added that it was necessary to ensure that safety protocols for trains and other popular modes of public transportation are continuously updated to reflect the best available data to prevent the spread of Covid-19.