Although President Donald Trump on his last day in the office tried to eliminate the Covid-19-related ban on travel from Brazil, Britain and much of Europe, Jen Psaki, current White House press secretary on Monday said that the ban would remain intact.
Psaki also confirmed that South Africa would be added to the restricted list because of concern about a coronavirus variant spreading in South Africa. South Africa is the continent’s worst-hit country in the pandemic, with more than 1.4 million coronavirus cases and 41,117 deaths.
Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS This Morning , “We’re looking at it very actively. It is clearly a different and more ominous than the one in the U.K., and I think it’s very prudent to restrict travel of noncitizens.”
Mr. Biden’s team had announced that he would reimpose the travel restrictions, but the addition of South Africa to the restricted travel list highlights the new administration’s concern about mutations in the virus.
Meanwhile, a case of a more contagious coronavirus variant first found in Brazil has been confirmed in Minnesota, the state’s department of health said in a statement on Monday. It is the first confirmed case of the variant in the United States.
The UK, South Africa and Brazil variants could be much more contagious or easy to catch than earlier versions. Experts think the UK or “Kent” strain emerged in September and may be up to 70% more transmissible or infectious. It is this variant which has driven the latest lockdowns around the UK.
The South Africa variant emerged in October, and it has more potentially important changes in the spike protein than the UK variant. It has one of the same mutations as the UK one, plus two more that scientists think may interfere more with vaccine effectiveness.
The Brazil variant emerged in July and has three key mutations in the spike protein that make it similar to the South Africa one.
The UK government has announced a ban on flights from South Africa and South America and Portugal to prevent spread.
In addition to the travel bans, the new executive order requiring that all international travelers present negative coronavirus tests before leaving for the United States.