With coronavirus pandemic numbers continuing to reach highs across the globe, on Monday President Joe Biden reinstated travel restrictions to the United States for non-citizens from Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Schengen Area of Europe, according to a report by CNN.
This comes after former president Donald Trump signed an executive order on January 18 to lift travel restrictions on visitors from the countries, which would have gone into effect on January 26. Biden's transition team opposed the measure at the time over concerns of rising cases and the emergence of more contagious variants.
"On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," wrote incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Twitter.
New restrictions on those who recently visited South Africa have also been put in place. This is in response to concerns among health officials that a new variant appearing in the country may be resistant to current vaccines, as reported by Reuters. While it has yet to be discovered in the United States, this version -- called the 501Y.V2 variant -- has been found in 20 countries already and is 50 percent more infectious. The variant originally discovered in the United Kingdom, B.1.1.7, has already appeared in at least 20 states, but vaccines have proven effective.
The restrictions come as part of the Biden administration's efforts to take an apolitical science-based approach to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Other measures include increasing the production of vaccination supplies and requiring a negative COVID-19 test prior to traveling into the country.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's principal deputy director, told Reuters in an interview 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."
Most of the countries targeted by the reinstated travel restrictions already had similar measures placed on American travelers. The United Kingdom and Ireland require a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before traveling to the countries, while Brazil requires that, plus proof of a completed Declaration of Traveler's Health. The Schengen Area -- which includes the countries of Spain, Germany, France, Italy and Sweden among others -- has generally banned American travelers who have not met a specific set of requirements.