Biden bans travel from South Africa amid concerns over new strain of coronavirus

Despite maligning former President Donald Trump’s coronavirus travel restrictions as xenophobic, President Joe Biden is keeping — and even broadening — them.

The new president will issue a ban on most travel from South Africa in response to a new COVID-19 strain that is spreading there, while maintaining existing restrictions, The Hill reports.

New virus strain

Nearly a year since coronavirus changed life in America and around the globe, new strains have appeared in South Africa, Brazil, and Britain, raising concerns about whether current vaccination efforts will have a lasting effect.

The South African variant is said to be more infectious, but has not spread to the United States yet. The British strain has been detected stateside.

Reuters was first to report Sunday that the Biden administration will restrict most non-citizens who have been in South Africa in the last two weeks from traveling to America.

“We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa,” Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, according to Reuters.

She added that Biden is “putting in place this suite of measures to protect Americans and also to reduce the risk of these variants spreading and worsening the current pandemic.”

Renewed restrictions on Europe

Biden will also renew Trump’s restrictions on travel from Britain, Ireland, Europe, and Brazil, which have been in effect for months, but were set to expire tomorrow after Trump moved to cancel them last Monday.

Trump moved early on in the pandemic to restrict travel, first from China last January, and then Europe in March. Brazil followed in May.

He lifted the restrictions on Brazil and Europe, while maintaining bans on Iran and China, because of a new CDC order requiring international travelers coming to America to test negative for the coronavirus first. The order goes into effect Tuesday.

While Biden’s team might seek to claim some credit, it is worth noting that these are Trump’s restrictions, and Biden criticized them initially as “xenophobic.” Biden also appears to be quietly keeping Trump’s China ban.

“A wall will not stop the coronavirus. Banning all travel from Europe — or any other part of the world — will not stop it,” Biden said in March.

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