Biden to enforce South Africa travel ban to tackle new COVID-19 variant – CDC
WASHINGTON (US) – President Joe Biden will enforce a ban on most non-US citizens making their entry into the country, after recently being to South Africa starting Saturday in an attempt to contain the spread of a new variant of COVID-19, a senior US public health official told.
Biden on Monday is also bring back an entry ban on nearly all non-US travelers who have been in Brazil, the UK, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders.
Dr Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, in an interview Sunday, said, “We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa.”
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.”
Biden, who took office on Wednesday, has been taking a stern approach to combat the spread of the virus after Trump dismissed mandates sought by US health agencies.
CDC officials told that the South African variant, also known as the 501Y.V2 variant, is found to be 50% more infectious and has been detected in at least 20 countries. They said that they would consider the idea of adding additional countries to the list if there was a requirement,
Though the South African variant has not yet been found in the United States, at least 20 US states have detected a UK variant known as B.1.1.7. Current vaccines have shown signs of efficacy against the UK mutations.
The South African embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director (CDC) head Rochelle Walensky will sign a separate order Monday making masks mandatory on all airplanes, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-share vehicles for all travelers two and older, according to officials. The new requirements are likely to take effect in the coming days, they said. Masks can be removed for brief periods while eating or drinking.
The CDC will not, as it said on January 12, consider granting breathers to airlines to exempt some travelers from countries, where there is a capacity for limited testing. Numerous US airlines last week had asked CDC for waivers, airline officials said.
But CDC officials said they would consider case-by-case exemptions on humanitarian basis for some travelers if needed.
CDC officials noted 120 countries currently have mandatory COVID-19 testing requirements, when it comes to international travel.
The CDC order says travelers should self-quarantine for seven days after returning to the United States and get themselves a new COVID-19 test within three to five days of returning to the United States.
“With the pandemic worsening and these more contagious variants emerging it’s not the time to lift restrictions on international travel,” Schuchat said.
CDC officials have for weeks articulated the chances of adding these testing requirements ahead of US domestic flights or requiring testing upon return from international travel, however, no decision have yet been made.
The restriction, along with the new South Africa ones, indicate that most non-US citizens who have visited one of those countries within the last 14 days would not be permitted to travel to the United States.
Permanent US residents and family members and some other non-US citizens are allowed to make their return to the United States under the order.
Trump has opposed efforts by Congress to have masks worn in transit .