President Joe Biden promised an answer in the ‘next several days’ on when the U.S. will lift restrictions that ban most non-U.S. citizens from traveling to the United States from most of Europe.
Biden was asked about the travel ban, which has been in place since March 2020, the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, during a Thursday evening press conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
‘It’s in the process of being how soon we can lift the ban, it’s in process now, and I’ll be able to answer that question to you within the next several days, what is likely to happen,’ Biden said.
President Joe Biden (right) said at a press conference Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) that he’ll have an answer in the ‘next several days’ on when the U.S. might lift its travel ban with most Europeans
During the press conference, Biden (right) noted that Merkel (left) actually brought up the travel ban, which doesn’t allow Germans to visit the U.S. and has been in place since March 2020
COUNTRIES ON THE US RESTRICTED LIST
Biden said Merkel had brought up the issue during their meetings Thursday afternoon at the White House.
Merkel added, ‘I did raise the issue, yes.’
‘And got the same answer that the president gave you just now,’ she told reporters through a translator.
She talked about how the Indian Delta variant is a ‘new challenge’ for both leaders.
‘And obviously before such a decision, one has to reflect, and it has to be a sustainable decision,’ Merkel continued. ‘It is certainly not sensible to have to take it back after only a few days, so I have every confidence in the American COVID team.’
Biden has been facing mounting pressure to lift the ban – including from travel industry groups and lawmakers in his own party.
Some of the border bans – such as the ones imposed on the EU, UK and China – have not been updated since they were put in place back in March 2020 when the pandemic first took hold.
Since then, COVID-19 vaccinations have accelerated and deaths and hospitalizations from the virus have drastically declined.
While the Indian delta variant is now spreading rapidly, vaccines still appear to be highly effective in preventing deaths and hospitalizations.
The EU reopened its borders to American tourists last month just in time for summer travel.
Some experts argue that there is a lack of consistency with the current bans given Americans – as well as some visa holders – are allowed to travel freely to most parts of the world and return back to the US.
‘It’s time to lift the blanket bans across the globe,’ Steve Shur, who is president of the Travel Technology Association, told DailyMail.com earlier this month.
Shur, whose organization partners with travel agents, airlines and hotels, said the blanket ban is no longer relevant and should be ‘risk-based’ instead.
‘It has to be based on risk – a country level risk assessment. Blanket bans aren’t appropriate at this stage,’ he said.
‘Given the rapid pace of vaccine rates, we think it’s reasonable and feasible to ease some of the restrictions in parts of the world.’
Members of the U.S. swimming team arrive in Tokyo Wednesday for the Olympic Games. Biden was asked Thursday when visitors from a number of banned countries will be allowed back in the U.S.
The US border remains closed to 26 European countries, the UK, Iran, China, South Africa, Brazil and India because of COVID-19 concerns. Some of the border bans have not been updated since they were put in place back in March 2020 when the pandemic first took hold
He argued that the ban between the US and the UK should be quickly lifted because both countries have similar vaccination rates.
Shur added that proof of vaccination, negative COVID tests and mask mandates are among the ways in which authorities can feasibly and safely lift travel bans for certain countries.
‘Whatever is appropriate for the risk factor for each country… in place of the blanket bans that are in place today,’ he said.
‘The lack of clarity from the administration on this topic has delayed the rollout of international travel. I know the administration is working on it but it’s too late. The industry is really hoping for a road map.’
Other experts say choosing which countries to add to the travel restriction list based on current outbreaks is nonsensical because the virus, including the delta variant, is likely already spreading throughout the country.
India, South Africa and Brazil were only added to the travel ban list when variants of COVID-19 started to spike in those countries in recent months.
Those bans weren’t put in place until weeks after variants of the virus started spreading in countries such as the UK.
The White House has repeatedly refused to answer questions about when the ban might be lifted.