Bidens new CDC director quashes hopes of relaxed entry rules for UK and EU – Daily Mail
President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming CDC director has said that rules on foreign entry to the U.S. may ‘tighten’ under the new administration, in a reversal of President Donald Trump’s plan to relax pandemic travel restrictions.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who will take over as CDC director on Wednesday, told Good Morning America that Trump’s plan to begin lifting current restrictions was unlikely to come to fruition.
‘If you look at the fatalities of 400,000 that we’re likely to hit today, if you look at our cases across this country, I don’t think now is the time to encourage people to get on international flights,’ she said.
‘I think now is the time to really buckle down, double down our efforts,’ Walensky added.
‘I don’t expect we will be lifting travel restrictions and if anything I expect that they might tighten, especially in the context of variants that we’re hearing about,’ she said, referring to new strains of the virus that appear to be more contagious.
Current U.S. rules forbid entry by most foreign nationals traveling from the UK, the EU’s Schengen Zone, Ireland, China, Iran and Brazil.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who will take over as CDC director on Wednesday, told Good Morning America that Trump’s plan to begin lifting current restrictions was unlikely to come to fruition
Travelers in the international arrival area of Heathrow Airport near London are seen on Monday. Most travel from the UK to the US is currently prohibited
U.S. nationals are still allowed to return to America from those countries in most cases, and there are various other exceptions to the rules that vary by country.
Walensky did not elaborate on what new restrictions the Biden administration might impose, and did not immediately respond to an inquiry from DailyMail.com on Tuesday.
Starting on January 26, the CDC will begin requiring negative COVID-19 tests for all travelers entering the U.S. from abroad. Tests were already mandatory for all travel from the UK as of last month.
Officials had told Reuters the outgoing president, set to leave office Wednesday, had planned to relax travel restrictions also starting on January 26, relying on testing to stop the spread of new variants.
In an order Trump wrote ‘this action is the best way to continue protecting Americans from COVID-19 while enabling travel to resume safely’.
But just 90 minutes later the president elect’s press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted: ‘With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.
Travelers look at Covid-19 results after being tested inside JFK International Airport in New York on December 22
‘On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,’ Psaki wrote.
The current restrictions bar nearly all non-U.S. citizens who have been within the last 14 days in: Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the 26 countries of the Schengen area in Europe that allow travel across open borders.
Restrictions on travelers from Europe have been in place since mid-March; the Brazilian entry ban was imposed in May. The Trump administration imposed the bans in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Under Trump’s plan the restrictions had been set to end the same day that new COVID-19 test requirements take effect requiring all international visitors to have a negative result.
It was first reported in November that the administration had been considering lifting the restrictions, imposed early last year in response to the pandemic, after winning support from coronavirus task force members and public health officials.
But new coronavirus variants have been found in both the UK and Brazil in recent weeks. The UK’s strain, B 1.1.7., has resulted in the country being forced back into strict lockdowns. The CDC has already warned it could become dominant in the US by March, triggering massive surges in cases.
In Brazil the Amazonas state where the variant emerged is now so overwhelmed with coronavirus cases that health care system in the capitol, Manaus, is in ‘collapse,’ Brazil’s Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said.
Joe Biden’s team on Monday quashed Donald Trump’s plan to lift travel ban on visitors from the UK, Brazil and Europe, instead announcing they will strengthen border restrictions
Officials had told Reuters the outgoing president, set to leave office Wednesday, had planned to remove restrictions starting on January 26. But just 90 minutes later the president elect’s press secretary Jen Psaki had tweeted
Passengers pictured at JFK Airport in New York last month. Restrictions on travelers from Europe have been in place since mid-March; the Brazilian entry ban was imposed in May. The Trump administration imposed the bans in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic
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 January 26.
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 per cent or more.
They pressed senior White House officials about the issue in recent days.
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.
On Twitter US visa holders and those with relatives in America asked Biden to consider opening the borders up to allow their travel
On Twitter some US visa holders and those with relatives in America asked Biden to consider opening the borders up to allow their travel.
Justin Elbon wrote: ‘It’s time to lift restrictions that are keeping family’s separate. Many of which have been in quarantine for a long time and wish to be with their loved ones again. It’s time to end the ban on people that wish to come to the US from Eur.’
Another Twitter user said: ‘You’re forgetting the impact of this travel ban to immigration and immigrants. At least allow people with visas to enter the US after being stuck abroad for 10 months.’
Elena Graham tweeted: ‘PLEASE consider a middle ground that allows partners/immediate family members to reunite with testing and quarantine. It’s been a horrific year for binational families.
‘Please also do not discriminate against unmarried partners.
@CFCHudsonValley wrote: ‘Would US, EU & other countries figure out a testing/quarantine protocol that would allow those of us w/ loved ones in other countries to visit them safely. Would happily isolate pre/during/post travel & take multiple tests to be able to visit my daughter. She’s my only family.’
Other Twitter users backed the continued ban replying to Psaki on Monday evening
Other backed the continued ban, writing: ‘Thank God there are about to be adults in charge.’
Another replied to Psaki saying: ‘Thank you. Can we implement travel restrictions specifically from the areas where these variants are currently appearing. We failed to do this the first time around… and can we ramp up testing here for these mutations so that we can properly isolate and contain them?’
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has effectively shut the UK’s borders amid fears of the spread of ‘mutant’ Covid first detected in southern England.
All arrivals to the UK from abroad will have to test negative and isolate for 10 days when they get here, regardless of where they come from.
The new regime will be backed by tougher spot checks and stay in place until at least February 15 as ministers and scientists work out how to manage the threat posed by mutations.
A COVID-19 patient, one of 12 to be transferred in a military airplane, is assisted by medical staff at the Ponta Pelada airport in Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil, on January 15. The health system in Manaus, in the Brazilian northern state of Amazonas, is at breaking point. The city’s hospital intensive care units have been at 100 percent capacity for the past two weeks, while medical workers are battling a shortage of oxygen and other essential equipment
Scientists have warned that the new variants seen in Brazil and the UK could easily reinfect people who have survived COVID-19 because there is possible resistance against antibodies, which evades the immune system response generated by the first infection.
What’s more, they caution that the variants could force researchers to update vaccines often to the point that it becomes like the flu with a shot needed every season.
There is currently no evidence that any of the variants are resistant to either Pfizer of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. However, the fact that new mutations keep cropping up is concerning.
‘The not-so-good news is that the rapid evolution of these variants suggests that if it is possible for the virus to evolve into a vaccine-resistant phenotype, this may happen sooner than we like,’ Philip Krause, chair of a WHO working group on COVID-19 vaccines, told Science Magazine.
Last Tuesday, Marty Cetron, director of CDC’s global migration and quarantine division, said the entry bans were an ‘opening act strategy’ to address the virus spread and should now be ‘actively reconsidered.’
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.