The Biden administration won’t lift a travel ban on foreign visitors from Europe and the UK “at this point” citing concerns about the highly transmissible Delta variant which has become dominant across the European continent in recent weeks and is threatening a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the United States.
President Biden had promised an update on international travel restrictions 10 days ago following a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. At the time, he had sounded more upbeat and suggested an easing of restrictions could follow soon.
On Monday, however, the White House downplayed the idea that the travel ban would be lifted anytime soon. “Given where we are today with the Delta variant, the United States will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” a source told Reuters.
“Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead,” the source continued.
The travel ban applies to Europe’s Schengen zone, as well as the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Travel bans are also in effect for India, South Africa, Brazil, China and Iran.
There was renewed hope that Biden might lift the ban on Europe and the UK after Merkel seemingly exerted pressure on the President to ease restrictions. It came just weeks after the EU opened to fully vaccinated American citizens following a similar travel ban.
American citizens are able to freely travel between Europe and the United States but any foreigner that has spent the last 14-days in a country subject to the travel ban is barred from entering the US. Critics of the ban claim Europeans can simply travel to a third country with even higher infection rates but which isn’t subject to a ban to then enter the United States after waiting out 10-days.
As well as Europe, officials in Canada are also unilaterally easing travel restrictions for fully vaccinated Americans and the UK is exploring ways to recognise U.S. vaccination records to allow double jabbed Americans to skip quarantine.
The Biden administration has not given any indication of when it might ease restrictions or what needs to happen for it to feel comfortable to roll back the travel bans. There is no recognition for fully vaccinated travellers despite relaxed domestic guidance.
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 used by some of the biggest names in journalism.