President Joe Biden will announce he is re-imposing a Covid-19 travel ban on most non-US citizens who have been in Britain, Brazil, Ireland and much of Europe, a White House official said Sunday, as the new administration ramps up its pandemic response.
Biden will also on Monday extend the ban to travelers who have recently been to South Africa, where a new potent strain of the virus has been discovered.
“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, is quoted by Reuters.
The South Africa variant has not been discovered in the United States, but another variant – originating in the United Kingdom – has been detected in several states.
Last week, the new president tightened mask wearing rules and ordered quarantine for people flying into the United States, as he seeks to tackle the country’s worsening coronavirus crisis. The order also requires that all U.S.-bound passengers ages 2 and above get negative COVID-19 test results within three days before traveling.
Biden has said that the Covid-19 death toll would likely rise from 420,000 to half a million next month — and that drastic action was needed.
“We’re in a national emergency. It’s time we treated it like one,” he said on Thursday.
In his last days in office, Donald Trump announced that a Covid-19 ban on travelers arriving from much of Europe and Brazil would be lifted — but the Biden administration said it would immediately reverse the order due to come into effect on January 26.
Trump had announced an initial ban on January 31, 2020, on non-American travelers entering from China to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The ban was extended to European countries on March 14 as the pandemic entered full force.