President Joe Biden will reinstate the COVID-19 travel restrictions that his predecessor nixed shortly before he left office. On Monday, Biden will reinstate the ban on nearly all non-U.S. travelers from Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders. Biden will also add South Africa to the list amid concerns over a new variant of the virus. “We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa,” Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, told Reuters in an interview.
The decision to reinstate the travel bans and adding South Africa to the list illustrates how the White House is concerned about the mutations of COVID-19. On Thursday, Anthony Fauci warned the new variants could make the vaccines less effective in combating the virus. CDC officials said the South African variant of COVID-19 is 50 percent more infectious and is currently in at least 20 countries. It hasn’t been found in the United States yet.
Biden’s team had made it clear before inauguration that they were not happy with Trump’s decision to rescind the travel ban on his way out that would have been effective as of Tuesday. “With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” Jen Psaki, who is now White House press secretary, tweeted.
The reinstatement of the travel ban comes days after Biden issued an executive order requiring international travelers to get a negative COVID-19 test before their travels and for all incoming international travelers to quarantine after entering the United States. The CDC made clear Sunday that there won’t be generalized exceptions to the testing requirements. Airlines had asked for exceptions for countries with limited testing capacity but the CDC said it will only consider humanitarian exemptions on a case-by-case basis.