US to maintain existing travel restrictions amid Delta variant concerns

Published on : Tuesday, July 27, 2021

On Monday, July 26, the White House confirmed that the United States will not lift any existing travel restrictions “at this point” due to concerns over the highly transmissible Covid-19 Delta variant and the rising number of US coronavirus cases. The decision would means that the long-running travel restrictions that have barred much of the world’s population from the United States since 2020 will not be lifted in the short term.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that given the position of the coronavirus infection with the Delta variant, the country will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point. She mentioned that driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising at the US particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead.

The announcement dooms the entire bid by US airlines and the US tourism industry to recover summer travel by Europeans and others covered by the restrictions. Airlines have heavily lobbied the White House for months to lift the restrictions and some say the industry may now have to wait until September or later for a possible revision. The United States is currently restricting most non-US citizens, who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without internal border controls, or in Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

The extraordinary US travel restrictions were first imposed on China in January 2020 during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week, the US Homeland Security Department said US land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to nonessential travel until at least August 21 even as Canada said it would begin allowing in fully vaccinated American tourists starting August 9.

The restrictions have brought heavy criticism from people prevented from seeing loved ones and the White House has acknowledged a desire to reunite separated families. The Biden administration has refused to offer any metrics that would trigger when it will unwind restrictions and has not disclosed if it will remove restrictions on individual countries or focus on enhancing individual traveller scrutiny.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky said on Thursday the seven-day average of new cases in the United States was up 53 per cent over the previous week. The Delta variant now comprises more than 80 per cent of new cases nationwide and has been detected in more than 90 countries.  The White House was reportedly discussing the potential of mandating Covid-19 vaccines for international visitors, but no decisions have been made so far.

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