The United States will not lift any existing travel restrictions “at this time” due to concerns over the highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 Delta and the growing number of coronavirus cases in the United States, the White House confirmed on Monday.
The decision, which was first reported by Reuters, comes after a high-level meeting at the White House on Friday evening. This means that the long-term travel restrictions that have barred much of the world’s population from entering the United States since 2020 will not be lifted in the short term.
“Considering where we are today … with the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday, citing the spread of the Delta variant. in the United States and abroad. “Driven by the Delta variant, cases are increasing here with us, especially among those who are not vaccinated and seem to continue to increase in the coming weeks. “
The ad almost certainly condemns any offer by US airlines and the US travel industry to save summer travel for Europeans and others covered by the restrictions. Airlines have lobbied the White House heavily for months to lift the restrictions and some say the industry may now have to wait until September or later for a possible review.
The US is currently banning most non-US citizens who in the past 14 days have been to the UK, Europe’s 26 Schengen countries without internal border controls, or Ireland, China , India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
The extraordinary travel restrictions from the United States were first imposed on China in January 2020 to combat the spread of COVID-19. Other countries have since been added, most recently India in early May.
Last week, the US Department of Homeland Security said the US land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least August 21 – although Canada has said it would begin allowing fully vaccinated U.S. tourists from August 9.
Asked on July 15 during a joint appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on when the United States would lift travel restrictions in Europe, US President Joe Biden said he “would be able to answer your questions. this question in the next few days – what is likely to happen. “
Merkel said any decision to lift the restrictions “must be a lasting decision. It certainly doesn’t make sense to have to take it back after just a few days.
Since this press conference, American cases have jumped.
United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky said on Thursday that the seven-day average of new cases in the United States was up 53% from the previous week. The Delta variant, which was first found in India, now accounts for over 80% of new cases nationwide and has been detected in more than 90 countries.
Psaki also cited the fact that the CDC last week urged Americans to avoid traveling to the UK, given the rising number of cases.
The restrictions drew sharp criticism from those prevented from seeing their loved ones, and the White House has recognized its willingness to reunite separated families.
The Biden administration declined to propose measures that would trigger when it removed restrictions and did not disclose whether it would remove restrictions on individual countries or focus on improving screening of individual travelers.
Reuters reported last week that the White House was discussing the possibility of making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for international visitors, but no decision has been made, sources briefed on the matter said. This idea remains under active discussion, they said.
The Biden administration has also been in talks with U.S. airlines in recent weeks about setting up international contact tracing for passengers before lifting travel restrictions.
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