Donald Trump will lift travel bans for most non-U.S. citizens flying from the UK, Brazil and much of Europe starting on January 26, two officials said Monday.
The restrictions are set to end under a new proclamation from the president the same day that new COVID-19 test requirements take effect requiring all international visitors to have a negative result. The White House has not commented.
It was first reported in November that the administration had been considering lifting the restrictions, imposed early last year in response to the pandemic, after winning support from coronavirus task force members and public health officials.
The current restrictions bar nearly all non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the 26 countries of the Schengen area in Europe that allow travel across open borders within the last 14 days.
Restrictions on travelers from Europe have been in place since mid-March; the Brazilian entry ban was imposed in May. The Trump administration imposed the bans in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
New coronavirus variants have been found in both the UK and Brazil in recent weeks. Trump is due to leave office on Wednesday and President-elect Joe Biden once in office could opt to reimpose the restrictions.
The UK’s strain, B 1.1.7., has resulted in the country being forced back into strict lockdowns. The CDC has already warned it could become dominant in the US by March, triggering massive surges in cases.
In Brazil the Amazonas state where the variant emerged is now so overwhelmed with coronavirus cases that health care system in the capitol, Manaus, is in ‘collapse,’ Brazil’s Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said.
President Donald Trump will rescind entry travel for most non-U.S. citizens who recently were in the UK, Brazil and much of Europe starting on January 26, two officials said Monday
Passengers pictured at JFK Airport in New York last month. Restrictions on travelers from Europe have been in place since mid-March; the Brazilian entry ban was imposed in May. The Trump administration imposed the bans in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic
Last week, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed an order requiring nearly all air travelers to present a negative coronavirus test or proof of recovery from COVID-19 to enter the United States starting on January 26.
Airlines had hoped the new testing requirements would clear the way for the administration to lift the restrictions that reduced travel from some European countries by 95 per cent or more.
They pressed senior White House officials about the issue in recent days.
Reuters previously reported the White House was not considering lifting entry bans on most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in China or Iran.
A COVID-19 patient, one of 12 to be transferred in a military airplane, is assisted by medical staff at the Ponta Pelada airport in Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil, on January 15. The health system in Manaus, in the Brazilian northern state of Amazonas, is at breaking point. The city’s hospital intensive care units have been at 100 percent capacity for the past two weeks, while medical workers are battling a shortage of oxygen and other essential equipment
Travellers in the international arrival area of Heathrow Airport, near London on Monday
Scientists have warned that the new variants seen in Brazil and the UK could easily reinfect people who have survived COVID-19 because there is possible resistance against antibodies, which evades the immune system response generated by the first infection.
What’s more, they caution that the variants could force researchers to update vaccines often to the point that it becomes like the flu with a shot needed every season.
There is currently no evidence that any of the variants are resistant to either Pfizer of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. However, the fact that new mutations keep cropping up is concerning.
‘The not-so-good news is that the rapid evolution of these variants suggests that if it is possible for the virus to evolve into a vaccine-resistant phenotype, this may happen sooner than we like,’ Philip Krause, chair of a WHO working group on COVID-19 vaccines, told Science Magazine.
Last Tuesday, Marty Cetron, director of CDC’s global migration and quarantine division, said the entry bans were an ‘opening act strategy’ to address the virus spread and should now be ‘actively reconsidered.’
Many administration officials for months argued the restrictions no longer made sense given most countries were not subject to the entry bans.
Others have argued the United States should not drop entry bans since many European countries still block most U.S. citizens.