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.
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 Among the pardons and orders being issued by Trump, yesterday saw a proclamation decreed that rescinded the travel ban on people who had been in the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and Brazil.
The ban, which went into force on March 11th, 2020, was rescinded on the basis that new testing protocols are now in place.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.”
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.
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
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.
The tweet was met with varied reactions. Some were furious that Biden plans to keep the ban in place, calling it ‘unethical.’
STOP SEPARATING FAMILIES! Make travel exceptions for families and unmarried couples to enter with proof of a negative covid-test and mandatory quarantine. Unmarried binational couples haven’t been able to see each other for a year now under this ban. It’s UNETHICAL.
— Steph (@ShinnStephanie) January 19, 2021
Others thought it was precisely the right call, with one user calling it ‘beautiful.’
This is the most responsible Tweet on behalf of the US government I've seen in four years. It's beautiful.
— Masking for healthcare workers. 😷🇺🇲 (@MonikaD330) January 19, 2021
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.