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Trump Lifts International Travel Bans, President-Elect Biden Set to Reimpose Restrictions

Trump Lifts International Travel Bans, President-Elect Biden Set to Reimpose Restrictions

With less than 48-hours before the 45th President of the United States leaves the White House for good, Donald Trump made a surprise decision to sign an order lifting draconian travel restrictions on much of Europe, Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as Brazil. The travel ban on any foreign national who have spent the past 14-days in these areas is set to be lifted on January 26, the same day that pre-departure testing requirements come into force.

But hopes by the airline industry that the imminent easing of restrictions would kickstart travel demand were soon dashed by the incoming Biden administration who went on the record to say that the new President would not only likely reimpose the existing restrictions but also extend them.

Photo Credit: United Airlines

On Monday, Trump said that he had decided to lift the travel bans on the advice of the Secretary of Health and Human Services who was confident that pre-departure testing would help prevent air travelers from importing and spreading the COVID-19 virus in the United States.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will require international arriving passengers to show evidence of a negative viral test taken within 72-hours of departure starting January 26. The CDC will accept either a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or other rapid antigen tests that are usually much cheaper and more easily accessible.

After signing the new order, the CDC said it hoped that pre-departure testing rules could be used ease travel bans in the near future.

Both the CDC and the White House Coronavirus taskforce had recommended the lifting of travel bans as early as November 2020 but President Trump had reportedly never taken a final view on the matter. In the last week, the British transport minister suggested that Trump had decided not to lift the travel bans against the advice of his team.

But in an executive order signed on Monday, Trump said he would lift the travel bans. The easing of restrictions would not, however, be extended to China or Iran because he believed these countries would not assist in the pre-departure test requirement.

Photo Credit: Delta Air Lines

Soon after Trump made the announcement, Joe Biden’s team moved quickly to reset expectations about the restart of unrestricted international travel.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” commented a political advisor to the President-elect, Jen Psaki.

“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26 (January 26). In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Psaki continued in a statement posted to Twitter.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. President-elect Biden has been very open about his desire to take a tough stance to combat the COVID-19 pandemic which is currently raging across the United States. In his first day in office, Biden says that amongst other things, he will mandate face mask use on inter-state travel and in federal buildings.

Biden hopes to turn the COVID-19 pandemic around within his first 100 days in office. During that time, the President-elect is expected to support more restrictions while the administration works to get one million jabs a day into the arms of American’s.

The existing travel bans are, therefore, likely to be reimposed soon after Biden takes office on Wednesday. If the incoming administration’s pandemic strategy goes to plan, there’s hope that the travel bans might be lifted by late April.

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