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US to keep existing Covid-related travel restrictions

<i>Samuel Corum/Getty Images</i><br/>
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Samuel Corum/Getty Images

By Jeremy Diamond and Kate Sullivan, CNN

The White House has decided to maintain existing coronavirus travel restrictions amid surging cases triggered by the Delta variant, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

“We will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point for a few reasons. The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world. Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing.

The Biden administration has been under growing pressure from the travel industry and US allies to lift pandemic-era restrictions limiting who can travel to the US.

“For any of these recommendations, we are always going to be guided by our North Star, and that is the (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and our health and medical experts,” Psaki said.

Psaki continued: “It would be actually surprising and odd if our health and medical experts were not having … an active discussion about how to … best protect the American people.”

“And there of course is an active discussion about a range of steps that can be taken, as there has been from the first day this administration. Certainly the surge in cases among unvaccinated because of the Delta variant prompts even more discussion about what actions can be taken,” Psaki said.

Psaki also pointed to the CDC’s recent advisory against traveling to the United Kingdom due to a surge in cases there.

Reuters first reported Monday morning that the US plans to maintain the travel restrictions.

Tourism from abroad has been effectively halted while the Covid-19 travel restrictions remain in place. The restrictions also bar migrants from seeking asylum and prevent foreigners from visiting family.

The White House has repeatedly stressed that any decisions about reopening international travel would be guided by public health and medical experts.

Biden’s top officials launched interagency working groups last month with the European Union, Britain, Canada and Mexico to look how and when travel and border restrictions would be lifted. The groups are overseen by the White House Covid-19 response team and the National Security Council, and include representatives from the CDC along with officials from the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Transportation.

The Biden administration recently extended non-essential travel restrictions for the US northern and southern borders until August 21. The US has been limiting non-essential travel along both borders since the start of the pandemic and extending those restrictions on a monthly basis.

These travel restrictions don’t apply to cross-border trade, US citizens and lawful permanent residents, as well as people traveling for medical purposes or to attend school, among others.

This announcement comes as Canada says beginning on August 9, fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents of the United States currently residing in the US will be permitted to enter Canada.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week that the White House would rely on its own health experts and not the actions of other countries when deciding travel restrictions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the President’s chief medical adviser and the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that the US was “going in the wrong direction” as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise, particularly among unvaccinated Americans.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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