Within minutes of outgoing President Donald Trump announcing radical changes to America’s coronavirus travel rules, his successor Joe Biden delivered an epic slapdown.
During his final hours in the White House, Mr Trump made the stunning statement that he had lifted entry bans imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic on most non-US citizens arriving from Brazil and much of Europe – despite the emergence of new variants in both parts of the world.
“This action is the best way to continue protecting Americans from COVID-19 while enabling travel to resume safely,” Mr Trump said in a statement released by the White House.
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The current measures bar nearly all people who are not American citizens who, within the last 14 days, have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and 26 other countries of the Schengen area in Europe that allow travel across open borders.
China and Iran will remain barred, the 74-year-old said, because both nations “repeatedly have failed to co-operate with the United States public health authorities and to share timely, accurate information about the spread of the virus”.
The new rules will come into place from January 26 – six days after Mr Trump leaves the Oval Office – and state that anyone coming into the country on an international flight must have a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from the virus.
Mr Biden, however, didn’t muck around in shooting down the idea, with a spokeswoman telling Reuters almost immediately after Mr Trump’s announcement that the president-elect does not want to see restrictions from Europe and Brazil lifted.
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“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26,” Mr Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, wrote on Twitter.
“In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.”
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There are already reports that the hours after his inauguration will be spent by Mr Biden and his administration signing a sweep of executive actions to undo some of Mr Trump’s signature policies.
After he’s sworn in as 46th President of the United States on January 20, Mr Biden will have the legal authority to reimpose any restrictions removed by Mr Trump.