US to keep existing Covid-related travel restrictions

The White House has decided to maintain existing coronavirus travel restrictions amid surging cases triggered by the Delta variant, a White House official told CNN Monday.

“Given where we are today with the Delta variant, the United States will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” the White House official said.

The Biden administration has been under growing pressure from the travel industry and US allies to lift pandemic-era restrictions limiting who can travel to the US.

The official said the decision to maintain existing travel restrictions was driven by the spread of the Delta variant in the US and around the world and the recent rise in cases in the US which will “likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead.”

The official also pointed to the CDC’s recent advisory against traveling to the United Kingdom due to a surge in cases there.

“The administration understands the importance of international travel and is united in wanting to reopen international travel in a safe and sustainable manner,” the White House official said. “The reopening process is guided by the science and public health.”

Reuters first reported Monday morning that the US plans to maintain the travel restrictions.

Tourism from abroad has been effectively halted while the Covid-19 travel restrictions remain in place. The restrictions also bar migrants from seeking asylum and prevent foreigners from visiting family.

The White House has repeatedly stressed that any decisions about reopening international travel would be guided by public health and medical experts.

Biden’s top officials launched interagency working groups last month with the European Union, Britain, Canada and Mexico to look how and when travel and border restrictions would be lifted. The groups are overseen by the White House Covid-19 response team and the National Security Council, and include representatives from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with officials from the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Transportation.

The Biden administration recently extended non-essential travel restrictions for the US northern and southern borders until August 21. The US has been limiting non-essential travel along both borders since the start of the pandemic and extending those restrictions on a monthly basis.

These travel restrictions don’t apply to cross-border trade, US citizens and lawful permanent residents, as well as people traveling for medical purposes or to attend school, among others.

This announcement comes as Canada says beginning on August 9, fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents of the United States currently residing in the US will be permitted to enter Canada.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week that the White House would rely on its own health experts and not the actions of other countries when deciding travel restrictions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the President’s chief medical adviser and the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that the US was “going in the wrong direction” as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise, particularly among unvaccinated Americans.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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