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US Bans Most Travel from Greece, Ireland, UK as Covid Variant Spreads

US Bans Most Travel from Greece
Grounded airplanes on the tarmac at Miami International Airport. Credit: Greek Reporter

The US will ban most travel from Greece, the UK, Ireland and other countries in a bid to stop the further spread of the coronavirus variants that have emerged abroad and already made inroads in the United States, according to a decree from President Joe Biden on Monday.

The new restrictions, which also include South Africa and Brazil, mean that most non-US travelers from these countries will be restricted, as they were before former President Trump relaxed the ban just days before his term ended.

No time to be lifting restrictions

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, spoke to the press on Monday regarding the reinstated ruling, saying that South Africa had been added to the list because of the variant which had been detected there.

“This isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” Psaki said.

The ruling means that  almost all foreign nationals who have stayed in any of the nations on the new list at any time during the past two weeks before their scheduled travel date to the US will be barred from entry.

South African variant “more ominous” than UK mutation

In an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s preeminent disease expert, said that President Biden’s decision to reinstate the former strictures was “prudent” in light of the prevalence of the variants in these nations.

“We have concern about the mutation that’s in South Africa,” Fauci explained. “We’re looking at it very actively. It is clearly a different and more ominous than the one in the UK, and I think it’s very prudent to restrict travel of non-citizens.”

The UK and Brazilian variants have both been detected in the United States, but as of Tuesday the South African varian had not.

Dr. Fauci told the press that there is “a very slight, modest diminution” of the effectiveness of the existing vaccines against these virus mutations; however, “there’s enough cushion with the vaccines that we have that we still consider them to be effective against both the UK strain and the South Africa strain.”

He cautioned that additional mutations may occur in the future and added that scientists are preparing to change the current vaccines if necessary to address the variants.

“We really need to make sure that we begin, and we already have, to prepare if it’s necessary to upgrade the vaccines,” Fauci stated. “We’re already taking steps in that direction despite the fact that the vaccines we have now do work.”

All new restrictions in effect as of today

The new restrictions go into effect on Tuesday. Last week, former President Trump had ruled that all international travelers coming to the United States show a negative test result within three days of boarding for their flight. That ruling was made in response to a recommendation from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, upon entering the Oval Office, President Biden increased these restrictions, directing that federal agencies impose a quarantine after arrival and be tested yet again in an effort to stop the spread of the Covid-19 variants.

All the rulings go into effect today, Tuesday.

In what was seen as a somewhat unusual move, the US State Department said in an announcement that citizens of the United States should reconsider nonessential travel abroad, because testing in some nations remains problematical at the present.

In addition, the State Department warned that Americans should plan in advance for any possible health care and lodging costs in the event they were quarantined or became ill while traveling.

A total of 26 European countries from which travel will be restricted include Greece, Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Germany, France, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Spain, Iceland, and Switzerland. All the countries belong to the Schengen zone, in which there are no checks at national borders.

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