by Zero Hedge
The back and forth between the outgoing and incoming administrations is approaching peak humor levels.
Late on Monday, the Trump admin announced plans to lift airline travel bans that kept most visitors from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil away since last spring, when President Trump imposed bans on those countries as part of his administration’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under a presidential proclamation released by the White House on Monday, the change would go into effect Jan. 26, the same day as new requirements announced last week that all people flying to the U.S. from abroad test negative for Covid-19 no more than three days before their flights. Restrictions on travel from China and Iran would remain in place.
Yet barely had potential visitors to the US cracked open a bottle of champagne, when the incoming Biden administration promptly reversed the reversal, and rejected Trump’s effort to lift bans on most travel into the U.S. Biden’s incoming White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, wrote on Twitter on Monday night that the Biden administration wouldn’t lift the travel restrictions.
“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 wrote. “On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of Covid-19.”
According to the WSJ, members of Trump’s coronavirus task force had discussed lifting the restrictions, which were a core element of the administration’s early response to the pandemic, for some time, according to people familiar with the matter, acknowledging they did little to help the U.S. with the virus already circulating widely here. But clearly, the incoming Biden administration disagreed.
Martin Cetron, who leads the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, said in an interview last week that the travel restrictions created collateral damage to the economy and had proved leaky. “We learned that the opening strategy of banning locations and asking about exposures and doing fever checks just didn’t cut it,” Dr. Cetron said. “We had to pivot.”
Officials in Europe and the U.K. had also pressed the Trump administration to take steps to allow travel to resume in some form, the WSJ reported citing sources. Finally, the airlines themselves – suffering from severely depressed international travel in recent months – had also advocated lifting the restrictions in conjunction with the new testing regime.
It’s not just the US that remains out of reach for most: many countries, including much of Europe, remain closed to most U.S. citizens. But lifting of the restrictions could set the stage for reciprocal agreements with foreign governments to allow each others’ residents to cross their borders, according to one U.S. official familiar with the matter. That, however, does not appear to be imminent under the Biden administration.