Biden Implements Travel Bans from Europe, Brazil and South Africa Due to Mutated COVID Strain

United States President Joe Biden has renewed the travel ban for Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Schengen region of Europe that was originally implemented a year ago by Former President Donald Trump. He has also added South Africa to the list. The bans are intended to prevent the spread of new COVID-19 variants that have developed in those destinations.

US citizens and residents are exempt from the travel bans and will be able to return home. However, they will be subject to the new requirement to produce a negative COVID-19 test no older than three days prior to departure to the US. The order states non-US citizens who were “physically present” in Brazil, the UK, Ireland, any of the 26 countries of the Schengen region or in South Africa in the preceding 14 days will be denied entry to the United States. This means safari operators from South Africa or those transiting South Africa or the Schengen region will not be allowed to enter the United States for their in-person marketing.

CDC officials say the new South African variant of COVID-19 is 50% more infectious, and while it has not been found in the US yet, at least 20 other countries have detected it. Also, 20 US states have detected the UK variant of the virus. According to the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci, current vaccines appear effective against the UK mutations. In an interview with CBS This Morning Facci said the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines is a “slight, modest diminution” against both new strains. He also said that there is enough “cushion” with the vaccines that they can still be considered effective against both the UK and South African strains. Yet he expressed concern about the South African strain, calling it “more ominous” than the one from the UK. He also warned against the possibility that more new strains may develop but said scientists are preparing to adapt the vaccines to combat them.  

There are some limited exceptions to the travel ban. US citizens, residents and their spouses or legal guardians are among those. Diplomats, members of the US armed forces and a few other highly specialized exceptions are also included. The CDC recommends travelers returning to the US self-quarantine for seven days and consider being tested within three to five days of returning.

The ban on travelers from South Africa goes into effect on Saturday, January 30, 2021, while the ban on the other destinations becomes effective on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. Both will remain in effect until the Secretary of Human Health and Services recommends the President modify or terminate the proclamation. CDC officials continue to deliberate whether to require testing in the US before domestic flights.