White House officials told Reuters that due to concerns about the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant and the rising number of U.S. coronavirus cases, the US would not eliminate any existing travel restrictions “at this time.”
The decision came on Friday after a high-level White House meeting that implied that the long-standing travel restrictions that have been in place in the US since 2020 will not be eased for now.
“Given where we are today with the Delta variant, the United States will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” the official told Reuters, citing the spread of the Delta variant in the United States and abroad. “Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead.”
Any attempt by U.S. airlines and the tourism industry to salvage summer travel by Europeans and others covered by the restrictions are almost certainly destined for failure. For months, airlines have been lobbying for a lift of the restrictions on air travel.
Most non-US citizens who have spent the previous 14 days in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe with open borders, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran, and Brazil, are barred from entering the United States.
To combat the spread of COVID-19, the US imposed unprecedented travel restrictions on China in January 2020, and other nations have been added since then, most recently India in early May.
The US Homeland Security Department announced this week that the country’s land borders with Canada and Mexico would remain blocked to non-essential travel until at least August 21 — despite Canada’s announcement, it will begin allowing fully vaccinated American travelers in on August 9th.
When asked when the US might ease European travel restrictions during a joint appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on July 15, Biden said he would “be able to answer that question to you within the next several days — what is likely to happen.”
Merkel stated that any decision to ease limitations would be taken with caution “has to be a sustainable decision. It is certainly not sensible to have to take it back after only a few days.”
The number of cases filed in the United States has increased after that press conference.
According to Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the seven-day average of new cases in the United States was up 53 % since last week. The Delta variety, first discovered in India, currently accounts for more than 80% of new cases in the United States and has been found in more than 90 countries.
The White House official also mentioned that the (CDC) recently advised Americans to avoid traveling to the United Kingdom due to increased cases.
But the official added: “The administration understands the importance of international travel and is united in wanting to reopen international travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”
People who are unable to see their loved ones have expressed their dissatisfaction with the restrictions.
International travel is “something we would all like to see — not just for tourism, but for families to be reunited,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday. “We rely on public health and medical advice on when we’re going to determine changes to be made,” Psaki added.
There are no metrics that would indicate when the Biden administration would remove restrictions. It hasn’t said whether it would remove restrictions on individual countries or focus on enhancing traveler scrutiny.
In a report published last week, Reuters reported that the White House discussed the possibility of mandating COVID-19 vaccines for international visitors.
In recent weeks, the Biden administration has been discussing with US airlines about developing international contact tracing for travelers before relaxing travel restrictions.
Early in June, the White House formed interagency working groups with the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Mexico to examine ways to ease travel and border restrictions eventually.
The (CDC) mandated COVID-19 testing for practically all foreign flight travelers in January.