President Joe Biden will reintroduce coronavirus travel restrictions against foreign nationals coming to the US from Brazil, Great Britain, Ireland and much of Europe on Monday, adding South Africa to the list.
Reuters first reported the pending order on Sunday, which was later confirmed by NBC News. Last week, then-President Donald Trump ordered an end to the virtual travel ban from these countries effective January 26, although Biden's team immediately said the new administration would leave the ban intact.
The travel restrictions, first introduced last spring, have excluded foreign nationals who have been in Brazil, the UK, Ireland and the 26 European Schengen countries in the 14 days prior to arriving in the US.
An official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Reuters on Sunday that South Africa would be added to the list to help curb the spread of a new variant of COVID-19 in that country.
There have been concerns that the South African variant may be less responsive to the coronavirus vaccine. It has not yet been discovered in the US, although other variants have been.
The Biden government is taking a far more aggressive approach to tackling the pandemic. The new president signed at least ten ordinances last week to speed up testing, speed up protective equipment manufacturing and increase vaccinations.
Last week, Biden ordered all international air travelers to be quarantined upon arrival in the U.S. The inbound international passenger test must be negative for COVID-19 within three days of arriving in the U.S.
As of Sunday, there were 99 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide – more than 25 million in the US alone – and 2.1 million deaths worldwide, more than 418,000 deaths in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University.