President Donald Trump issued a proclamation late Monday night that would end the 10-month long travel ban on visitors entering the U.S. from the U.K. and much of the rest of Europe, as well as a ban on travel from Brazil. And you thought Trump had forgotten about the coronavirus! Under the new rules, the bans on non-citizens entering the U.S. from those countries would be replaced by testing requirements for travelers before arriving. This is not necessarily—or inherently—a bad policy shift, other countries have adopted similar standards or are in the process of doing so, it’s just not a decision for Trump to make. The Trump order is set to go into effect on Jan. 26, the day the testing requirement is slated to be implemented, which also happens to be six days after Biden takes office.
The incoming Biden administration has already pumped the brakes on the idea of loosening restrictions on 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,” Biden transition spokesperson Jen Psaki tweeted in response to the maneuver. “On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
Why did Trump make this move? It certainly wasn’t time-sensitive such that it couldn’t have waited 48 hours. The U.S. border, after all, has been closed for nearly a year. Figuring out a way safe way to resume some form of essential travel—for families, above else—is worth pursuing within the complex architecture of pandemic policy-making, but that’s certainly not what Trump was after. On one hand, the proclamation feels like a vague attempt at framing the pandemic as something Trump is bringing to a close. On the other, like many last-minute Trump efforts, it also looks like an attempt to shrug off any semblance of responsibility for difficult, often painful pandemic policies, and pass them onto the Biden administration—likely so Trump can turn around talk trash about them in his post-presidential life, possibly as a candidate.