US President-elect Joe Biden’s spokeswoman quickly dismissed Donald Trump’s announcement Monday that a COVID-19 ban on travelers arriving from much of Europe and Brazil would be lifted, underlining the fractious transition of power.
Trump signed an order Monday lifting the restrictions he imposed early last year in response to the pandemic – a decision first reported Monday by Reuters – after winning support from coronavirus task force members and public health officials.
“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26,” Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary tweeted soon after.
“In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she added.
The restrictions Trump rescinded have barred nearly all non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the 26 countries of the Schengen area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.
Both Biden and Trump’s statements come days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that all air passengers bound for the US will be required to test negative for COVID-19 within three days of their departure.
The test policy will take effect on January 26, and expands on a previous testing rule that targeted Britain and came into effect in December, following the emergence of a coronavirus variant believed to be more transmissible.
Some epidemiologists have warned it is likely that new, more transmissible variants are already establishing themselves in the United States, the hardest-hit country in the world by the pandemic.
As of Monday, the US had recorded more than 24 million cases of COVID-19, with nearly 400,000 deaths.
(With input from agencies)