Written by David Sheppardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US president-elect plans to urgently extend travel restrictions that prevent most people who have recently visited much of Europe and Brazil from traveling shortly after President Donald Trump lifted those requirements, effective January 26, a Biden spokeswoman said. .
Trump signed an order on Monday to lift restrictions he imposed early last year in response to the pandemic – a decision first reported by Reuters on Monday – after garnering support from members of the coronavirus task force and public health officials.
Shortly after Trump’s order was announced, Biden spokeswoman Jane Saki tweeted, “On the advice of our medical team, the administration does not intend to lift these restrictions by 1/26.”
She added, “With the worsening of the epidemic, and the emergence of more infectious variables around the world, this is not the time to lift restrictions on international travel.”
For Biden to act, Trump ends the restrictions on the same day that new COVID-19 testing requirements apply to all international visitors. Trump is due to leave office on Wednesday.
Last week, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed an order requiring nearly all air travelers to provide a negative coronavirus test or proof of recovery from COVID-19 to enter the United States starting January 26.
The restrictions that Trump revoked have prevented nearly all non-US citizens who have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and 26 countries in the Schengen area of Europe allowing travel across open borders in the past 14 days.
US restrictions preventing most visitors from Europe have been in place since mid-March when Trump signed ads for them, while an entry ban to Brazil was imposed in May.
In fact, Psaki added, “we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” Biden’s move did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether he plans to expand the countries covered.
Once in office, Biden has the legal power to reimpose the restrictions.
On Tuesday, Marty Citron, director of the CDC’s Global Immigration and Quarantine Division, told Reuters that the entry ban was an “opening action strategy” to counter the spread of the virus and should be “actively reconsidered.”
Airlines had hoped the new test requirements would pave the way for the administration to lift restrictions that have reduced travel from some European countries by 95% or more.
They had pressed senior White House officials over the issue in recent days.
Several administration officials have argued for several months that the restrictions no longer make sense given that most countries were not subject to entry bans. Others argued that the United States should not abandon the entry ban because many European countries still bar most American citizens.
Reuters reported earlier that the White House was not considering lifting the entry ban for most non-US citizens who have been in China or Iran recently. Trump confirmed on Monday that he would not raise it.
(Covered by David Sheppardson; Editing by Howard Goller and Nick Ziminsky)
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