Joe Biden, who made his objections to travel bans well known throughout the past year, stating that they were “xenophobic,” has announced that he will formally reinstate COVID travel restrictions on non-U.S. travelers from 29 countries that allow travel across open borders, including Brazil, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
COVID Travel Restrictions
Two White House officials speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the travel bans would be reinstated, and also confirmed that South Africa will be added to the list due to concerns about a variant of the coronavirus that has spread beyond that nation.
Dr. Anthony Fauci referred to the travel bans as “prudent” during several interviews on January 25.
“We have concern about the mutation that’s in South Africa. We’re looking at it very actively. It is clearly a different and more ominous than the one in the U.K., and I think it’s very prudent to restrict travel of noncitizens,” Fauci told CBS This Morning.
In his final days in office, President Trump had relaxed the travel restrictions after adding a new requirement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that all international travelers coming to the United States have to obtain a negative test for COVID within three days of their flight. Biden’s new travel ban reverses Trump’s order.
Biden’s team had already announced that the travel restrictions would be reinstated, but adding South Africa to the list shows that the Biden administration is concerned about COVID mutations.
Though the South Africa mutation has not yet been found in the U.S., another mutation from the United Kingdom has been detected in multiple states.
According to Fauci, the vaccine may still work on the mutations. He stated that there is “a very slight, modest diminution” of the effectiveness of the vaccines against the variants, but “there’s enough cushion with the vaccines that we have that we still consider them to be effective against both the UK strain and the South Africa strain.”
Fauci also cautioned that more mutations are possible, noting that scientists are preparing to adapt the vaccines if necessary.
“We really need to make sure that we begin, and we already have, to prepare if it’s necessary to upgrade the vaccines. We’re already taking steps in that direction despite the fact that the vaccines we have now do work,” Fauci said.