The Biden administration will introduce limitations on travel to the US from South Africa and maintain restrictions on people travelling from the UK, Ireland and most of Europe amid concerns about contagious new coronavirus strains.
Jen Psaki, the new White House press secretary, said on Monday that Joe Biden had “decided to maintain the restrictions previously in place for the European Schengen area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and Brazil, with the pandemic worsening and more contagious variant contagious variants spreading”.
“This isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” Ms Psaki told reporters. She added that “in light of the contagious variant”, South Africa would also be added to the restriction list, which bans non-American citizens from entering the US from certain countries.
The Trump administration first put the bans in place early last year at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump White House moved to lift the travel bans earlier this month before leaving office, but the Biden administration said it would not follow suit given the number of cases and concerns that emerging strains of the virus are more contagious and deadly.
Ramping up the distribution of coronavirus vaccines and stopping the spread of the virus are two of the primary challenges facing the new White House. More than 410,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Mr Biden’s proposals for an additional $1.9tn in coronavirus relief include billions of dollars to help speed up vaccine distribution, and the new president has set a target of administering 100m jabs in his first 100 days in office.
Ms Psaki added that from Tuesday, international travellers to the US — including American citizens — would need to provide airlines with proof of a negative Covid test taken with three days of travel.
“The president is taking these steps on the advice of his Covid-19 and medical team,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first announced earlier this month that international air passengers would need to provide negative tests in order to enter the US.