Biden Won’t Relax European And UK Travel Bans

In his final few hours as President of the United States, Donald Trump has issued a proclamation ending the COVID-induced restrictions on travelers from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and Brazil. But don’t get too excited yet, because word from Biden’s office is that this will not be happening. Here’s the story.

Plane and US capitol
Trump rescinded the COVID-related travel ban, but Biden plans to reinstate it. Photo: Getty Images

Trump removes travel ban

With President Trump’s time in office drawing swiftly to a close, the White House appears to be a flurry of activity as the outgoing head of state enacts his final deeds before leaving office. Among the pardons and orders being issued by Trump, yesterday saw a proclamation decreed that rescinded the travel ban on people who had been in the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and Brazil.

The ban, which went into force on March 11th, 2020, was rescinded on the basis that new testing protocols are now in place. From January 26th, air passengers arriving in the US from a foreign country will need to present a negative COVID test in order to board the flight. In combination with the expected cooperation of public health authorities in those jurisdictions, Trump stated that this was enough for him to lift the ban. The proclamation read,

“Accordingly, the Secretary has advised me to remove the restrictions applicable to the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and the Federative Republic of Brazil, while leaving in place the restrictions applicable to the People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran.  I agree with the Secretary that this action is the best way to continue protecting Americans from COVID-19 while enabling travel to resume safely.”

United San Francisco Testing
Trump’s proclamation would have taken effect from the day testing requirements went into force. Photo: United Airlines

Trump’s ban relaxation was set to come into force on the same day that the testing mandate began – January 26th. For a moment, those on either side of the pond who have been anxiously awaiting permission to travel rejoiced. But that joy was to be short-lived, as the Biden administration has other ideas.

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Biden’s team respond immediately

Within a matter of hours following Trump’s announcement, Biden’s team had responded with a firm ‘no.’ Spokesperson Jen Psaki noted that, under the new administration, the bans would not be lifted.

As soon as Joe Biden takes power tomorrow, he has the authority to revoke the order from Trump. The 46th president has already made it clear he intends to take swift and firm action to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the US, and it seems that, for now at least, that will include maintaining the stop on travel across the Atlantic and from Brazil.

Joe Biden
Biden will be undoing the order as soon as he takes power. Photo: Getty Images

The tweet was met with varied reactions. Some were furious that Biden plans to keep the ban in place, calling it ‘unethical.’

Others thought it was precisely the right call, with one user calling it ‘beautiful.’

While Biden will not be rescinding the travel ban brought in due to COVID, he will, on his first day in office, be lifting the ban currently in place against a number of Muslim-majority countries. Although in the short term that won’t change much for aviation, it may well spur some new routes and activities in the longer term as airlines begin to recover and international travel resumes.