Biden keeps COVID-19 travel restrictions for Europe and Brazil, adds South Africa

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President Biden on Monday signed a directive maintaining COVID-19 travel restrictions on most of Europe and Brazil, after former President Trump moved to roll them back just days before he left office.

The Biden administration is also extending restrictions to South Africa, where a new coronavirus variant has emerged.

“On advice of our administration’s medical and COVID team, President Biden has decided to maintain restrictions previously in place for the European Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Brazil,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday.

“With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she added.

The Schengen area covers 26 countries in Europe.

The move by Biden was expected and comes a day before the restrictions were scheduled to terminate under an executive order issued by Trump two days before Biden’s inauguration.

Trump attributed his decision to new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requiring passengers traveling by air to the U.S. to receive a negative COVID-19 test within three days before their flight departs. Those rules will take effect Tuesday.

Psaki, who was a spokesperson for the transition when Trump issued his executive order, said at the time that the new administration would keep the travel restrictions in place for those countries.

A proclamation later issued by the White House say that noncitizens will be barred from entering the U.S. if they were present in the 26 countries that make up the Schengen Area, the U.K., Ireland, Brazil or South Africa within 14 days before their attempted entry. The proclamation grants a number of exceptions, including to family members of U.S. citizens, those traveling with nonimmigrant visas and individuals invited by the federal government to help mitigate the virus.

The restrictions will remain in place until terminated by the president.

Psaki reiterated Monday the new CDC testing requirements for international travelers Monday during a White House press briefing. She also said the administration would begin regular health briefings Wednesday.

In addition to most of Europe, Brazil and now South Africa, the U.S. also restricts travel from Iran and China.

Coronavirus cases and deaths continue to climb at an alarming rate in the U.S., with more than 3,400 people dying from the virus Sunday. The Biden administration took over the federal response to the virus, in addition to the vaccine distribution, on Wednesday.

—Updated at 6:07 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Jen Psaki Pandemic travel restrictions

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