COVID-19 Travel Ban Lifted?

trumpIn a last-minute maneuver before leaving office, President Donald Trump lifted COVID-19 travel restrictions, a measure President Joe Biden’s administration has committed to block.

In an inexplicable move, Trump lifted coronavirus-related travel restrictions for much of Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Brazil, a move – effective January 26 – President Biden’s administration has promised to block.

After winning support from coronavirus task force members and public health officials, Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) to lift the restrictions he imposed early last year in response to the pandemic. According to CNN, Trump said he had been advised to lift restrictions on incoming travelers to the U.S., specifically from the 26 European countries in the Schengen Zone, the UK, Ireland and Brazil but leave in place restrictions on travel from Iran and China.

Soon after Trump’s order was made public, Biden spokeswoman and incoming White House (WH) Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted, “On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.” Further, “With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel. In a subsequent tweet, she added: “In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Ironically, and until Biden takes action, Trump’s EO effectively ends restrictions the same day that new COVID-19 test requirements take effect for all international visitors. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signed an order requiring nearly all airline passengers to submit a negative coronavirus test or proof of recovery from COVID-19 to enter the U.S. starting on Jan. 26. Further, airline passengers will need to get a test within three days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and to provide written documentation of their lab results, or documentation of having recovered from Covid-19.

So what does this mean for event professionals and attendees anxious to hit the road again? Fasten your seatbelts and follow closely all travel and COVID-19 announcements from the Biden Administration. While they have promised to not lift these restrictions critical to mitigating the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus, this time of transition and uncertainty is taking place amidst a raging pandemic and we all need to allow the Biden Team time to determine appropriate and consistent policies and advise the traveling public accordingly.

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