President Joe Biden is set to reimpose extensive travel bans on the United Kingdom, Europe and Brazil later on Monday, as well as extend the ban to South Africa as part of an effort to keep out a new and highly transmissible variant of the COVID-19 virus that experts fear could resist existing vaccines by as much as 50 per cent.
As one of his last acts as President, Donald Trump rescinded the travel bans on the 26 European countries that make up the Schengen zone, as well as the United Kingdom, Ireland and Brazil. The bans would have been lifted on Tuesday, which is the same day that new pre-departure testing rules come into force for travelers headed to the United States.
The new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, however, immediately indicated that the Biden administration would reimpose the travel ban, saying last Monday: “With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.”
Speaking with Reuters on Sunday, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Anne Schuchat confirmed that the travel bans would be reimposed and extended.
“We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa,” Dr Schuchat told the news agency.
Within hours of taking office, Biden had signed a slew of executive orders designed to ramp up the U.S. response to the Coronavirus pandemic. There has been a focus on air travel, including a federal mandate on passengers wearing a face mask and a review of pre-departure testing and quarantine rules.
The CDC currently recommends that international travelers quarantine for up to seven days on arrival and consider getting a second test. President Biden is looking at options to make this advice a federal mandate that would be enforceable.
The travel bans are not expected to exclude U.S. citizens and residents, who will continue to be free to travel abroad. The Biden administration, however, is attempting to discourage as much travel as possible – both internationally and domestically.
Flights to and from South Africa have either been banned or heavily curtailed from a growing list of countries as fears grow about the new Coronavirus variant discovered in the country. Cases have already been detected in the United Staes and several European countries.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.