With just hours until he is set to leave the White House, Donald Trump has signed an order terminating Covid travel restrictions for people arriving from Brazil and most of Europe.
On Monday, local time, the White House released a proclamation signed by Trump, saying the restrictions on entry for travellers from the Schengen Area, the UK, Ireland and Brazil would be lifted.
The new rules would come into effect on January 26 and would mean travellers from those regions would be permitted entry into the US.
The proclamation said the Secretary of Health and Human Services has “high confidence” the jurisdictions would cooperate with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order which comes into effect on January 26.
On January 12, the CDC announced as of the 26th, all air passengers arriving in the US will need to show proof of a negative test for COVID-19.
“Public health officials in the jurisdictions have a proven record of working with the United States to share accurate and timely COVID-19 testing and trend data, and the United States has active collaborations with the jurisdictions regarding how to make travel safe between our respective countries,” Trump wrote.
However, the President did not lift all travel restrictions.
Travellers from China, excluding Hong Kong and Macau, and Iran remain barred from entering the US due to the pandemic.
“Those jurisdictions’ responses to the pandemic, their lack of transparency, and their lack of cooperation with the United States thus far in combatting the pandemic, cast doubt on their cooperation in implementing CDC’s January 12, 2021, order,” the order says of China and Iran.
US travel restrictions will remain in place
Come January 26, Trump will no longer be president. Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20 and he has no intention of lifting travel restrictions.
Just after the White House statement was released, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a tweet if anything travel restrictions will be tightened.
“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26,” Psaki said.
"In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19."
Psaki said now wouldn’t be the time to lift international travel restrictions as the pandemic is “worsening” and variants of the virus are emerging from around the world.
The US still leads the world in both confirmed Covid cases, with over 24 million, and deaths, with just under 400,000.
However, Brazil sits at number three in the world, with regards to confirmed Covid cases with over eight million and second behind the US with related deaths with over 210,000, according to Johns Hopkins data.
Earlier in January, Japan's health ministry said it had detected a new coronavirus variant in four travellers from Brazil's Amazonas state.
Brazil’s variant, known as P.1, featured 12 mutations, including one also found in highly infections variants discovered in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
In addition to the UK’s new variant, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have all seen new lockdowns due to rising case numbers.
The UK strain, B.1.1.7, was first detected in September 2020. It has been found in London and southeast England and across the world, including Australia, Canada and the US.
The CDC notes these variants, along with the one detected in South Africa, seem to spread more easily, which can lead to more cases, though at this point there is no evidence it causes more severe illness or increases the chances of dying from Covid.
But, a more infectious strain of Covid is still poses a very big risk.
“An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalisations, and potentially more deaths,” the CDC said.
With Reuters and the Associated Press
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