President Biden plans to impose new restrictions Monday on people traveling to the U.S. from South Africa and reimpose travel restrictions covering much of Europe and Brazil that former President Donald Trump had moved to lift.
The new ban on travel by most non-U.S. citizens from South Africa is intended to mitigate the spread of a new COVID-19 variant.
“We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Reuters, which first reported the news.
Last week, Mr. Trump issued an order that lifted coronavirus-related travel restrictions for the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe starting on Jan. 26.
Mr. Biden’s team had already indicated that they would swiftly reimpose those 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,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted last week.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top health adviser to Mr. Biden, said it’s unlikely that the South African variant has made its way into the U.S. but that he couldn’t say for sure.
A separate variant discovered in the United Kingdom has already made its way into at least 20 U.S. states.
Dr. Fauci said on Sunday that the South African variant strain can counteract monoclonal antibodies that have been used as treatment.
“It looks like it does diminish more so the efficacy of the vaccine,” Dr. Fauci said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “But we’re still within that cushion level of the vaccines being efficacious against these mutants.”
Dr. Vivek Murthy, Mr. Biden’s pick to be U.S. Surgeon General, said on Sunday that the new variants constitute a “shot across the bow.”
“The bottom line is, we’re in a race against these variants,” Dr. Murthy said on ABC’s “This Week.” “The virus is going to change. And it’s up to us to adapt and to make sure that we’re staying ahead.”