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Biden Reimposes and Extends Travel Bans But Leaves Hope that Measures Could Be Relaxed Soon

Biden Reimposes and Extends Travel Bans But Leaves Hope that Measures Could Be Relaxed Soon

President Joe Biden signed a proclamation on Monday afternoon that reimposed travel bans on Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil, and extended the ban to South Africa as part of his administration’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The original travel ban, which was imposed by Donald Trump in March 2020, was due to expire on Tuesday after Biden’s predecessor decided to rescind the ban during his last days in office.

Trump based his decision to rescind the travel ban on a new pre-departure testing strategy that will also take effect on January 26 and which his administration approved around seven months after similar policies were introduced by multiple governments around the world.

All travelers over the age of two arriving by air into the United States from abroad will be required to produce a negative COVID-19 test certificate dated within 72 hours of travel. Travelers who can prove they’ve recovered from COVID-19 infection in the last six months will be exempt from the testing requirement.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, decided not to grant blanket exemptions to airlines operating from destinations where access to approved testing is still tricky. The CDC made the decision after receiving dozens of requests from multiple airlines which they feared would have compromised the integrity of the strategy.

In his Presidential Proclamation, Joe Biden said that the travel bans were being brought back while a review of existing testing and health protection measures are being reviewed by multiple federal agencies. The inclusion of this caveat raises hope that the travel bans can be relaxed in the near future if other protections are introduced.

Measures currently being explored include mandatory quarantine for nearly all arriving passengers from abroad. At present, the CDC recommends a seven day quarantine, although this could be beefed up to between 10 and 14 days, or shortened through the use of a second or third test several days after arrival.

The administration is also looking at the current pre-departure testing rules to determine whether they provide enough protection to justify easing the travel bans.

In the last few days, Finland decided that it was safe to lift a blanket ban on arrivals from South Africa through pre-departure testing, arrival testing and home quarantine orders. Several other countries have also eased their own travel bans through similar strategies.

Experts are particularly concerned about the South African variant, officially known as 501.V2, because it is not only highly transmissible but it may also dampen the efficacy of existing vaccines. On Monday, Moderna said its vaccine still worked on the South African variant but efficacy dropped six fold. Similar early results have been seen with the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine.

As before, the travel ban exempts permanent residents of the United States, noncitizen national of the U.S., as well as a slew of other categories including close relatives of lawful permanent residents.

The travel ban covers the 26 European countries within the Schengen zone, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), the Republic of Ireland, Brazil and South Africa.

View Comments (3)
    • They are racist when they only target certain races/nationalities from the same country … For example “orange Mussolini wannabe” banning Chinese people only from coming into the USA but allowing others from China to travel freely. President Biden is thankfully not applying racist logic to his travel bans but comprehensive blanket restrictions on all people from high risk countries as obviously the virus doesn’t discriminate based on passport or race …..nice try with your false equivalence ….

  • @Chris travel bans are only racist if you are Republican didn’t you get the talking points memo on that.

    Seriously with hardly any business travel right now this is a vacation killer for most folks. I’m not sure how much longer the cruise lines, airlines, hotels, and travel agents can hang on.

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