Biden to block Trump’s plan to lift COVID-19 travel restrictions

Washington: US President-elect Joe Biden plans to quickly extend travel restrictions barring travel by most people who have recently been in much of Europe and Brazil soon after outgoing President Donald Trump lifted those requirements effective on January 26, a spokeswoman for Biden said.

Trump signed an order lifting the restrictions on Monday (Tuesday AEDT). He imposed the ban early last year in response to the pandemic after winning support from coronavirus taskforce members and public health officials.

President Donald Trump’s European travel ban last year sent investors around the world into a panic.Credit:AP

Soon after Trump's order was made public, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted "on the advice of our medical team, the administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26."

She added that "With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this was not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel."

Until Biden acts, Trump's order ends restrictions the same day that new COVID-19 test requirements take effect for all international visitors. Trump is due to leave office on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT).

Last week, the head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention signed an order requiring nearly all air travellers to present a negative coronavirus test or proof of recovery from COVID-19 to enter the United States from January 26.

The restrictions Trump rescinded have barred nearly all non-US citizens who within the last 14 days have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the 26 countries of the Schengen zone in Europe that allow travel across open borders.

The US restrictions barring most visitors from Europe have been in place since mid-March when Trump signed proclamations imposing them, while the Brazilian entry ban was imposed in May. Psaki added that "in fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19." The Biden transition did not immediately respond to a request to comment on plans to expand the countries covered.

Biden, once in office, has the legal authority to reimpose the restrictions.

Last week, Marty Cetron, director of CDC's global migration and quarantine division, told Reuters those entry bans were an "opening act strategy" to address the virus spread and should now be "actively reconsidered".

Airlines had hoped the new testing requirements would clear the way for the administration to lift the restrictions that reduced travel from some European countries by 95 per cent or more.

They had pressed senior White House officials about the issue in recent days.

Many administration officials for months argued the restrictions no longer made sense given most countries were not subject to the entry bans. Others have argued the United States should not drop entry bans since many European countries still block most US citizens.

Europe is in the middle of a highly contagious wave of coronavirus and Brazil has lost more than 210,000 people to COVID-19.

Reuters previously reported the White House was not considering lifting entry bans on most non-US citizens who have recently been in China or Iran. On Monday Trump confirmed he would not lift those.

Reuters

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