- The Washington Times - Monday, January 25, 2021

President Biden on Monday formally extended travel restrictions on non-U.S. passengers from much of Europe, the U.K., Ireland and Brazil, reversing former President Trump’s move to relax the restrictions.

Mr. Biden also added South Africa to the restricted-travel list, citing a fast-spreading variant of the virus that was discovered in that country. The mutation may diminish the power of existing vaccines and drugs.

“With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Ms. Psaki said as of Tuesday, all travelers to the U.S. — including American citizens — must provide proof of a negative test to their airlines within three days prior to departure.

Mr. Biden’s decision to extend travel restrictions produced ribbing from Republicans who recalled that Mr. Biden called Mr. Trump’s ban on travel from China “xenophobic” one year ago.

Pressed on this, Ms. Psaki said Mr. Biden was upset at the time that Mr. Trump didn’t pursue a more comprehensive plan beyond travel bans.

The restrictions in Mr. Biden‘s presidential proclamation apply to 26 countries in Europe known as the “Schengen area.”

Mr. Trump had moved to lift many of the travel restrictions, effective Jan 26, though left bans on China and Iran intact.

On the homefront, Ms. Psaki said Mr. Biden ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help an “understaffed” vaccination center in West Virginia, upon the state’s request.

She cited it as an example of Mr. Biden’s effort to bring a bigger federal role to the immunization campaign, particularly through FEMA.

Ms. Psaki also said the White House plans to hold “science-led” briefings on the COVID-19 crisis with public health officials, starting Wednesday. They plan to hold the briefings three times a week.

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