Biden to ban most non-US citizens traveling from South Africa over new COVID-19 variant: report

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President Biden is expected to ban most non-U.S. citizens traveling from South Africa from entering the U.S. due to the COVID-19 variant recently discovered there.

A top Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official told Reuters in an interview that Biden will restrict entry for travelers who are not U.S. citizens and have visited South Africa within the last two weeks. 

The president also plans to restore the ban for almost all non-U.S. citizen travelers who had been in Brazil, the U.K., Ireland and 26 countries in Europe. Former President Trump had cleared the travel restrictions for dozens of countries to be lifted on Tuesday, but Biden’s move will prevent the bans from ending. 

“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, told Reuters.

The agency will be “putting in place this suite of measures to protect Americans and also to reduce the risk of these variants spreading and worsening the current pandemic,” she added.

The CDC and the White House did not immediately return a request from The Hill for comment. 

The Biden administration faces an uphill battle reigning in the coronavirus that has been confirmed to infect more than 25 million people in the U.S., killing more than 418,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The travel restrictions applying to South Africa come as the country deals with a variant, called 501Y.V2, that is 50 percent more infectious and has been found in at least 20 countries. CDC officials told Reuters that they will consider adding other countries to the travel ban list if necessary.

Some health officials have expressed concern that the current vaccines being distributed throughout the U.S. may not be effective against the variant from South Africa. 

Another strain that is believed to be more contagious was discovered in the U.K. last month and has since spread to at least 20 states. But the vaccinations appear to be effective against the variant from the U.K.

The travel restrictions on European countries have stayed in place since mid-March and the ban on Brazil since May. 

“With the pandemic worsening and these more contagious variants emerging it’s not the time to lift restrictions on international travel,” Schuchat said.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky plans to sign a different order on Monday mandating masks on airplanes, ferries, trains, subways, buses and taxis for everyone aged two and older.

This Tuesday, the restrictions will go into effect that mandate all international air travelers 2 and older to provide a negative COVID-19 within three days of travel or proof of recovery.

Tags CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus coronavirus travel bans coronavirus travel restrictions coronavirus variant COVID-19 COVID-19 variant Donald Trump Pandemic Reuters Rochelle Walensky South Africa South Africa coronavirus strain U.K. U.K. coronavirus strain

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