President Joe Biden has reinstated COVID-19 travel restrictions previously lifted by former President Donald Trump last week. Travelers coming from Brazil, Ireland, the U.K., and the Schengen countries of Europe are no longer permitted entry into the United States. U.S. citizens, however, are exempt from these restrictions.
In a flurry of executive orders issued during the waning days of his term, Trump lifted the travel bans after implementing testing protocols for all travelers to the U.S. But Biden's incoming administration vowed to reverse the move.
"With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel," tweeted new press secretary Jen Psaki.
Biden has gone one step further than simply reinstating the original restrictions, adding South Africa to the ban. “We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, told Reuters.
That variant is one of several new highly contagious strains of COVID-19 discovered recently—it has not yet reached the U.S. Current research indicates that the coronavirus vaccines will still protect against these mutations, though perhaps with a slight reduction in efficacy. Moderna plans on developing a booster to protect against the South African variant specifically.
The reinstation of the international travel restrictions is the latest step taken by President Biden to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. On Friday, he signed an order implementing a mandatory 10-day self-quarantine for international travelers arriving in the U.S. He also mandated the wearing of masks on public transportation during interstate travel.