US politics & policy updates
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The Biden administration has said it will maintain its Covid-related travel bans for the foreseeable future on a range of countries, including the UK, the EU and China, due to the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant.
“Given where we are today with the Delta variant, the United States will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point for a few reasons,” a White House official said on Monday.
The person added: “Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead.”
The comments, first reported by Reuters, dash the hopes of many European countries and airlines that the US would relax its long-held bans in time for the start of the summer holidays.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, pressed US president Joe Biden on when he might be willing to lift the restrictions during her visit to the US last week. Biden had promised her an answer “within days”, and Monday’s comments suggest his administration is no closer to setting a date for the bans to be lifted.
The restrictions have mostly been in place since early in the pandemic, when former president Donald Trump cut off travel from several areas as they encountered their first waves of the disease. The bans do not apply to US citizens or any immediate family they are travelling with, nor to green-card holders or people who secure special exemptions, mostly for work-related reasons.
Biden recently set up working groups to decide when the restrictions might be lifted, but early optimism about restoring international travel has been dented by the spread of the Delta variant.
Officials previously told the Financial Times they did not expect a US-UK corridor to open before September, thanks in part to the recent surge in infections.
Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN this weekend the US was “going in the wrong direction” as cases continue to climb especially in areas with low vaccination rates. He added that officials were considering tightening federal advice on who should wear face masks and when.