The White House announced that due the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, including unease from the Delta variant, the United States will not be issuing any changes to the current travel restrictions that are currently in place.
A senior level meeting between White House officials late last week determined that the travel restrictions that have been set since the start of the pandemic will continue to remain in place for the foreseeable future. This means that a large proportion of the world’s population will continue to not be able to travel to the United States.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced the decision after a rise of Delta variant cases has been seen both in the United States and around the globe. She said “Given where we are today … with the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point.” Psaki added that “Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely to continue to increase in the weeks ahead.”
For the U.S. airline and tourism industry, this could spell disaster. With many companies in these industries hoping to bring in passengers from Europe and other parts of the world, they could lose out on a key moment to restart the industries after the coronavirus shut things down for months. Now, even with airlines continuing to press the White House to lift restrictions, some believe that it won’t be until September at the earliest for any travel restriction changes to occur.
The United States has prevented the majority of non-U.S. citizens from entering the country since January 2020, beginning with those coming from China. The restriction has since become more expansive, including individuals coming from places including the United Kingdom, 26 Schengen nations in Europe, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced last week that both the Mexican and Canadian border would remain closed through mid-August. This comes after the Canadian government stated that Americans who were vaccinated would be able to enter the country at the beginning of next month.
U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently held a joint appearance in mid-July. At the meeting, President Biden announced that he would have a response soon for what would likely happen with regards to the United States removing European travel restrictions. Chancellor Merkel furthered that any change in travel restrictions would have “to be a sustainable decision. It is certainly not sensible to have to take it back after only a few days.”
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States spiked only a matter of days after the conference was held.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, announced that the number of cases tracked over a seven day span increased by 53% compared to the week prior. This is in part due to the rise of the Delta Variant, which now makes up over 80% of cases in the country and has been found in over 90 countries around the globe.
Psaki reiterated that the CDC released guidance last week that recommended Americans to not travel to the United Kingdom after they had experienced a rise in coronavirus cases.
Despite this dangerous rise in caes, the continued travel restrictions have drawn disapproval from those looking to visit and see their family members.
Even so, the Biden administration has not yet pointed to any figures or data that would push officials to lift restrictions, whether that be on any specific country or on individual travelers.
The White House has remained in contact with the airline industry in regards to creating an international contact tracing system that contains data on passengers. This would go towards lifting travel restrictions.