Economy

Biden to block Trump's plan to lift COVID-19 Brazil's travel restrictions

Until Biden acts, Trump's order ends restrictions the same day that new COVID-19 test requirements take effect for all international visitors. Trump is due to leave office on Wednesday

Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
  • Trump signed an order Monday lifting the restrictions he imposed early last year in response to the pandemic;
  • Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted “on the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.”

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden plans to quickly extend travel restrictions barring travel by most people who have recently been in much of Europe and Brazil soon after President Donald Trump lifted those requirements effective Jan. 26, a spokeswoman for Biden said.

Trump signed an order Monday lifting the restrictions he imposed early last year in response to the pandemic – a decision first reported Monday by Reuters – after winning support from coronavirus task force members and public health officials.

READ ALSO: Google backs Biden immigration efforts, covers fees in threatened ‘Dreamer’ program

Soon after Trump’s order was made public, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted “on the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.”

She added that “With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.”

Until Biden acts, Trump’s order ends restrictions the same day that new COVID-19 test requirements take effect for all international visitors. Trump is due to leave office on Wednesday.

Last week, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed an order requiring nearly all air travelers to present a negative coronavirus test or proof of recovery from COVID-19 to enter the United States starting on Jan. 26.

READ ALSO: Pro-Trump protesters invade Capitol, interrupting Congressional session to ratify Biden’s election

The restrictions Trump rescinded have barred nearly all non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the 26 countries of the Schengen area in Europe that allow travel across open borders.

The U.S. restrictions barring most visitors from Europe have been in place since mid-March when Trump signed proclamations imposing them, while the Brazilian entry ban was imposed in May.

Psaki added that “in fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” The Biden transition did not immediately respond to a request to comment on if it planned to expand the countries covered.

Biden, once in office, has the legal authority to reimpose the restrictions.

Last Tuesday, Marty Cetron, director of CDC’s global migration and quarantine division, told Reuters those entry bans were an “opening act strategy” to address the virus spread and should now be “actively reconsidered.”

Airlines had hoped the new testing requirements would clear the way for the administration to lift the restrictions that reduced travel from some European countries by 95% or more.

They had pressed senior White House officials about the issue in recent days.

READ ALSO: Poker face: Biden most likely to lay some cards on the table and keep back some others in international relations

Many administration officials for months argued the restrictions no longer made sense given most countries were not subject to the entry bans. Others have argued the United States should not drop entry bans since many European countries still block most U.S. citizens.

Reuters previously reported the White House was not considering lifting entry bans on most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in China or Iran. Trump confirmed Monday he would not lift those.

Joe Biden leaves The Queen theatre in Wilmington. Photo: REUTERS/Tom Brenner

What else to expect for Latin America in Biden’s first days in office?

U.S President-elect Joe Biden plans to sign dozens of executive orders and send sweeping bills to Congress in his first days in office, aiming to roll back some of Donald Trump’s signature policies on immigration and climate change while taking action to ramp up the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

Regarding Latin America, Biden is expected to reverse Trump’s more restrictive asylum policies, such as imposing additional restrictions on anyone traveling through Mexico or Guatemala and attempting to prevent victims of gang and domestic violence from receiving asylum.

READ ALSO: Joe Biden’s economic plan prioritizes U.S. jobs over trade – including with Latin America

He is also expected to end Trump’s National Emergency declaration that allowed him to shift federal funds from the Department of Defense to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.