President Donald Trump on Monday said he is ending Covid-19 travel restrictions for air travelers from Europe and Brazil, a move that the incoming administration quickly rejected.
In a proclamation, Trump said the restrictions would be lifted effective Jan. 26, the same day a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order requiring a negative test for air travelers coming to the U.S. takes effect.
But by then, Joe Biden will be president, and his incoming press secretary tweeted that the restrictions would remain in place.
“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, tweeted Monday. “… In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
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.
— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) January 19, 2021
The travel restrictions put in place last year prevented most people without American citizenship or residency from traveling to the U.S. from the affected regions.
Trump’s proclamation said the restrictions would be lifted for Europe and Brazil because the U.S. is confident they will comply with an order requiring a negative Covid-19 test for those traveling by air to the U.S.
It leaves restrictions in place for China and Iran.
The CDC earlier this month announced that starting Jan. 26, all air passengers from other countries would be required to test negative for Covid-19 before coming to the U.S.
If the restrictions are lifted as in Trump’s proclamation, travelers from the United Kingdom, the Schengen Area in Europe, and Ireland and Brazil would still have to test negative for Covid-19.
But the current restrictions that bar all non-US citizens who have been to those countries within the last 14 days would be lifted, according to a White House official.
Trump said that he was leaving the restrictions in place for China and Iran in part because “their lack of cooperation with the United States thus far in combatting the pandemic, cast doubt on their cooperation” with the testing order.
The CDC in late December said all air travelers from the U.K. would be required to test negative for Covid-19 before departure to the U.S. after a variant was discovered in that country that is believed to be more transmissible.
The public health agency on Jan. 12 said the requirement would be expanded to include air passengers entering the U.S., effective Jan. 26.
The variant discovered in the U.K. had been detected in at least 10 states in the U.S. as of Wednesday, according to a CDC report last week. It is thought to be more transmissible but not any more deadly.
More than 2 million people around the world have died of Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University which is tracking cases. The 2 million mark was passed on Friday.
In the U.S., there have been more than 399,800 deaths and more than 24 million cases in the pandemic, according to an NBC News count of reports.
Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.
Geoff Bennett is a White House correspondent for NBC News.
The Associated Press