The United States has no plans to lift travel restrictions at this point given the rise of the delta variant, according to the White House.
The decision means the country’s current travel restrictions – which deny entry for people from the European Schengen area, United Kingdom and other countries – will remain in place.
“Given where we are today … with the delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point for a few reasons," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing Monday. "The more transmissible delta variant is spreading both here and around the world. Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely to continue in the weeks ahead.”
The delta variant now accounts for about 83% of cases nationwide and has led to a spike in U.S. COVID-19 cases. In the last two weeks, cases have increased 171% nationally, and the death rate is up 19% over the week before.
The decision comes just one week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans should avoid travel to the United Kingdom because of a spike in coronavirus cases. "They will evaluate and make recommendations based on health data," Psaki said of the CDC.
Which countries are included in the travel ban?
The U.S. first imposed travel restrictions in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, and were reinstated by President Joe Biden in January after then-President Donald Trump rescinded the restrictions days before the end of his term. The country still prohibits entry for most travelers from:
- European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City)
United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)
- Republic of Ireland
- South Africa
The decision to keep the ban in place comes one month after the European Union added the U.S. to a list of countries for which travel restrictions should gradually be lifted.
The U.S. also recently extended land border restrictions on nonessential travel through Aug. 21, despite Canada's plans to reopen its borders to vaccinated American travelers on Aug. 9.
The Biden administration has faced increasing pressure to lift travel restrictions from other nations and tourism industry leaders. Biden was pressed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on July 15 about lifting U.S. travel restrictions, and various airlines have urged the government to lift travel bans.
When will the U.S. lift its travel ban?
When asked if Biden would drop travel restrictions in the event airlines adopted vaccine passports or vaccine mandates, Psaki said Friday there are “ongoing working groups” focused on how to reopen international travel into the U.S.
“There are a range of topics in those discussions that are ongoing,” Psaki said. “The president receives regular briefings on them, but we rely on public health and medical advice on when we’re going to determine changes to be made.”
Travel industry groups have urged the Biden administration to open international travel.
Following the news Monday that travel restrictions would remain in place, U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes voiced confidence that travel restrictions could safely be dropped despite delta variant concerns.
“Given the high rates of vaccination on both sides of the Atlantic, it is possible to begin safely welcoming back vaccinated visitors from these crucial inbound markets," Barnes said in a statement. “We respectfully urge the Biden administration to revisit its decision in the very near term and begin reopening international travel to vaccinated individuals, starting with air corridors between the U.S. and nations with similar vaccination rates.”
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By Bailey Schulz, USA Today, Contributing: Michael Collins, Joey Garrison, Julia Thompson.