U.S. Covid Travel Ban Is Back On With List Expanded, Now Including South Africa

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Later today on Monday, January 25th U.S. President Biden is expected to sign documents reinstating and expanding the EU/Schengen et al travel restrictions which President Trump rescinded in the last days of his administration.

Image by Thomas H. from Pixabay

The travel ban on most non-U.S. citizens traveling from the Schengen countries, UK and Brazil will now include South Africa which has developed into a severe Covid hotspot in recent months.

As media reports reflect it’s widely expected that today there will be a new Executive Order signed by President Biden that renews the previous restrictions and includes new areas affected by the ban, irrespective of the CDC test requirement that will kick in on Tuesday, January 26th.

Reuters reports that these documents will be signed sometime Monday morning or afternoon.

President Joe Biden will impose a ban on most non-U.S. citizens entering the country who have recently been in South Africa starting Saturday in a bid to contain the spread of a new variant of COVID-19, a senior U.S. public health official told Reuters.

Biden on Monday is also reimposing an entry ban on nearly all non-U.S. travelers who have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders.

“We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, in an interview Sunday.

She added 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.”

Then-President Donald Trump directed on Jan. 18 those restrictions on Brazil and Europe be lifted effective Tuesday but Biden’s proclamation will rescind that decision. …

The U.S. restrictions barring most visitors from Europe have been in place since mid-March when Trump signed proclamations imposing them, while the Brazilian entry ban was imposed in May. The restriction, along with the new South Africa ones, mean most non-U.S. citizens who have been in one of those countries within the last 14 days are not eligible to travel to the United States.

Permanent U.S. residents and family members and some other non-U.S. citizens are permitted to return to the United States under the order.

This comes relatively late and only a day before the original ban was about to expire, even though the transition spokespeople had already made clear that the President-elect didn’t agree with the decision to rescind the restrictions.

Yet the first round of executive actions didn’t deal with this travel ban but instead focused on mask mandates and a possible quarantine for international arrivals in the U.S. which we also haven’t heard much more about yet.

Interesting detail: According to the Reuters report the ban on travelers from South Africa goes in effect starting Saturday January 30th. Would this also affect the renewed ban on travel from the other countries? Because if the original restriction expires and doesn’t kick back in until Saturday that would leave a window of at least three days to get on a plane and fly to the U.S.. I can’t imagine they would leave such a gap wide open but I guess we have to wait until the Presidential Documents are signed to answer this question.

Nevertheless all travelers entering the U.S. from Tuesday January 26th will have to provide a valid (negative) Covid test prior to departure or they won’t be accepted for their flight.

Conclusion

Unfortunately (non-U.S.) travelers from certain countries and regions continue to be restricted from being able to travel to the United States as executive action is about to be taken.

The U.S. government has already put new federal rules into place that will require incoming travelers from international destinations to produce negative Covid tests, air travelers to wear masks and in the near future likely some sort of self- isolation/quarantine regulation.

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