Biden Restrict Travel to South Africa, Brazil, and the U.K.

U.S. President Joe Biden has announced his administration’s plan to put a travel ban on most non-U.S. citizens coming into the country from South Africa, where a new strain of the coronavirus had been identified.

The president will sign the travel ban on Monday, according to a person familiar with the matter. Biden will also restore travel restrictions to non-U.S. citizens entering the country from the U.K. and Brazil as new strains of COVID-19 have also emerged. The restrictions will be extended to non-U.S. citizens in Ireland and much of Europe.

Principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Anne Schuchat told Reuters that the agency was “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.”

“We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa,” said Schuchat.

The South African variant of the virus (also known as 501Y.V2) is 50% more infectious and has been traced to at least 20 countries. It is yet to be found in the United States but the UK variant has been found in at least 20 states in the US, according to the CDC.

The CDC officials told Reuters that more countries will be added to the list if necessary.

Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki often criticized former president Trump for lifting the international travel ban even as there was an upsurge in new cases of the virus around the world.

“We plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of Covid-19,” Psaki said in a tweet.

Trump, before his final exit from the White House last week, ordered a removal of travel restrictions through a proclamation, starting January 26. His administration implemented travel restrictions to non-U.S. citizens in much of Europe, the U.K. and Brazil.

The travel ban lift which was supposed to go into effect on January 26, required both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens coming from COVID red zone countries to provide recent negative COVID-19 results before boarding flights.

A CDC official Rochelle Walensky will sign a separate order on Monday to require compulsory use of masks on all airplanes, trains, ferries, subways, taxes. Ride-share vehicles, and buses for all commuters two and older. The agency said the masks can be removed for brief moments like eating or drinking.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House health advisor said the available COVID-19 vaccines are not effective enough to provide protection against the new strains of the virus.

On Sunday, the CDC announced that it would remove the option for airlines with flights in countries that lack appropriate COVID-19 testing. But these airlines can apply for temporary waivers for some travelers. The order will be implemented on Tuesday.

So far, more than 25 million people have been infected by the virus and at least 417,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, according to data from John Hopkins University

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