The new US president is taking a more aggressive approach to COVID-19 with more than 25 million Americans now confirmed with the virus.
US President Joe Biden will reinstate a ban on most non-US citizens entering the country, including people from Brazil and the UK, where new, more transmissible variants of the coronavirus have emerged in recent months, and will add South Africa to the shortlist, according to public health officials.
“We are adding South Africa to the shortlist due to the disturbing variant present which has already spread beyond South Africa,” said Dr Anne Schuchat, Senior Deputy Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in an interview with the Reuters news agency.
Arrivals from Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders will also be banned.
She added that the CDC “is putting in place this series of measures to protect Americans and also to reduce the risk of these variants spreading and making the current pandemic worse.”
The move reverses a final ruling by former President Donald Trump that restrictions on Brazil and Europe will be lifted from January 26, when new testing requirements are also due to come into effect.
Biden, who took office on Wednesday, takes a aggressive approach to combat the spread of the virus after Trump rejected the warrants sought by health agencies and downplayed the severity of the pandemic. More than 25 million people in the United States have now been confirmed with COVID-19, or about a quarter of the total infections worldwide.
South African variant, also known as the 501Y V2 variant, is 50% more infectious and has been detected in at least 20 countries.
The South African variant has not yet been found in the United States, but at least 20 US states have detected a British variant known as B117, which is also much more transmissible. While current vaccines appear to be effective against British mutations, there are concerns that the South African variant could be more resistant.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky will sign a separate order on Monday requiring masks on all types of public transportation, including taxis and ride-sharing vehicles for all travelers aged two years. and more, officials said. The new requirements are expected to take effect in the next few days, they said, and the masks can be removed for brief periods while eating or drinking.
New CDC rules are already expected to come into effect on Tuesday, requiring all international air travelers over two years of age to present a negative coronavirus test performed within three calendar days of travel or proof of recovery from COVID-19 to enter in the USA.
The CDC will not consider, as it said on January 12, granting temporary waivers to airlines to exempt certain travelers from countries with limited testing capacity, but humanitarian exemptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
CDC officials noted that 120 countries currently have mandatory COVID-19 testing requirements for international travel.
Under the order, international arrivals will be required to self-quarantine for seven days and consider taking a new COVID-19 test within three to five days of returning to the United States.
“With the pandemic worsening and these more contagious variants appearing, it is not time to lift restrictions on international travel,” Schuchat said.
CDC officials have also discussed whether to add these testing requirements to domestic flights, but have made no decision.
Restrictions banning most European visitors have been in place since mid-March, while the entry ban into Brazil was imposed in May. The restriction, along with the new restrictions in South Africa, means that most people who are not U.S. citizens and who have stayed in one of those countries in the past 14 days will not be able to travel to the states. -United.
Permanent residents and family members, as well as some other non-U.S. Citizens, are allowed to return home under the ordinance.
Under Trump, pressure from the CDC to impose masks in transit was blocked, and the agency issued only strong recommendations for the use of masks.