President Donald Trump on Monday cleared the way for travelers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil to visit the United States as early as next week, rolling back a set of strict travel bans imposed last year due to Covid-19 — but President-elect Joe Biden’s team says it will not follow this order, keeping the travel bans in place when Biden takes office on Wednesday.
Currently, most non-U.S. citizens who have visited China, Iran, Brazil, Europe or the United Kingdom in the last 14 days are barred from entering the United States.
Trump planned to lift travel bans for Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil starting on Jan. 26, six days after he leaves office, the White House said in a statement (Reuters was first to report on the news).
However, the Biden administration does not intend to relax these rules next week, incoming Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday, tweeting “this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.”
The planned rollbacks reflected a shifting federal strategy. Starting next week, all international airline passengers will be required to show negative Covid-19 tests or prove that they’ve recovered from the virus before they are allowed to board a plane bound for an American airport, U.S. officials announced last Tuesday. Trump planned on leaving travel restrictions in place for China and Iran, claiming the two countries “repeatedly have failed to cooperate” with U.S. public health officials and can’t be trusted to implement the new Covid-19 testing rules.
Trump began restricting travel from China about a year ago, and he extended those bans to the United Kingdom, Brazil and much of Europe in the following months. Many other countries have employed a similar strategy, barring or severely limiting travel from parts of the world with a high rate of coronavirus transmission. But in recent months, some public health experts have questioned whether these bans are still effective at preventing Covid-19 from spreading, especially since the virus is already widespread within the United States.
Despite relaxed rules for air travel, the United States’ northern and southern borders will remain closed to most nonessential land travel until at least late February, federal officials announced last week. The United States, Canada and Mexico first introduced heavy border restrictions last March, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month he expects to keep the border closed until the entire world gets the pandemic under control.