Biden to sign South Africa travel ban to slow spread of new Covid-19 strain


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, two White House officials told NBC News.

Biden will also reinstate travel restrictions that were rescinded by former President Donald Trump in January, which would ban the entry of non-U.S. citizens from the U.K., Ireland and much of Europe. Brazil would also be affected.

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.

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 they will still likely provide enough protection to be worth getting.

The CDC also announced 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.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.



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