U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday rescinded entry bans imposed because of the coronavirus on most non-U.S. citizens arriving from Brazil and much of Europe effective Jan. 26, two officials briefed on the matter told Reuters.
A spokeswoman for Joseph Biden later said the incoming president does not plan to lift travel restrictions.
Reuters 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 restrictions are set to end under a new proclamation from Trump the same day that new COVID-19 test requirements take effect for all international visitors. The White House did not immediately comment. Trump is due to leave office on Wednesday.
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 Jan. 26.
The restrictions being rescinded have barred nearly all non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the 26 countries of the Schengen area in Europe that allow travel across open borders.
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.
President-elect Joe Biden once in office could opt to reimpose the restrictions.
Last Tuesday, Marty Cetron, director of CDC’s global migration and quarantine division, told Reuters those entry bans were an “opening act strategy” to address the virus spread and should now be “actively reconsidered.”
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% or more.
They had pressed senior White House officials about the issue in recent days.
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.
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.
UPDATED: This Reuters story was updated to include President-elect Biden’s decision to keep travel bans in place.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Howard Goller)