The Trump administration moved to lift its travel ban on people arriving from the UK and much of Europe, but a spokesman for Joe Biden said the president-elect would keep the restrictions in place to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The White House said on Monday night it would lift bans on non-US citizens arriving from the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the 26-nation Schengen common visa area and Brazil that have been in force since early last year.
However, the new rules would go into effect on January 26, six days after Mr Biden’s inauguration, and a spokesman for the president-elect said he planned to keep the travel bans in place.
“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” Jen Psaki, Mr Biden’s incoming White House press secretary, wrote on Twitter.
“On the advice of our medical team, the administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26,” she added. “In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of Covid-19.”
Under the Trump administration order, starting on January 26, travellers from the affected countries would need proof of a negative coronavirus test or documents showing they have contracted and fully recovered from the disease, in line with new rules issued last week by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, a ban on travellers arriving from China and Iran would remain in place. In a statement issued by the White House, Mr Trump said the two countries had “repeatedly . . . failed to co-operate with the United States public health authorities and to share timely, accurate information about the spread of the virus”.
Mr Trump’s efforts to lift a ban for UK arrivals comes as many countries are placing new bans on travellers from the UK, where rates of coronavirus have surged to record highs and threaten to overwhelm the country’s health service.
Last month, Poland and Turkey joined countries including Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and India in blocking people travelling from the UK.
England entered its third national lockdown on January 5, with non-essential shops shut and the closure of schools to all but a minority of pupils.
The UK government said late last week that it would ban people travelling into the country.