Biden to impose travel restrictions on South Africa, U.K. and Brazil to mitigate new Covid strains

US President Joe Biden signs executive orders for economic relief to Covid-hit families and businesses in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 22, 2021.

Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden will sign a travel ban Monday on most non-U.S. citizens entering the country who were recently in South Africa, where a new strain of Covid-19 has been identified, a person familiar with the situation told CNBC.

Biden will also reinstate travel restrictions on the entry of non-U.S. citizens from the U.K. and Brazil, where new Covid strains have emerged. The restrictions will also apply to Ireland and much of Europe. Former President Donald Trump had rescinded the restrictions just before Biden took office.

Reuters first reported news of the travel restrictions on Sunday.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the outlet that 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.”

Before Biden took office, incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki criticized Trump’s move to lift international travel restrictions even as more contagious variants emerged across the world.

“We plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of Covid-19,” Psaki wrote in a tweet.

Trump, through a proclamation last Monday, ordered a removal of travel restrictions that his administration had implemented early in the pandemic on most non-U.S. citizens who had been in much of Europe, the U.K. and Brazil, starting Jan. 26.

That is when the U.S. government will start mandating U.S.-bound air travelers, including U.S. citizens, to show recent, negative Covid-19 test results before boarding flights.

White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that available vaccines appear to be less effective against new, more contagious strains of Covid-19, but that they’ll still likely provide enough protection to be worth getting.

The CDC also announced on Sunday that it will remove the option for airlines with flights from countries that lack Covid-19 testing to apply for temporary waivers for some travelers. The agency will implement the order on Tuesday.

The virus has infected more than 25 million people and killed at least 417,000 people in the U.S. since the pandemic began, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. has not yet detected any cases of the South African variant, but several states have detected the U.K. variant.

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