Donald Trump announced plans to revoke bans on travel from the UK, Europe and Brazil, but the move was swiftly slapped down by Joe Biden’s incoming presidential team amid concerns over emerging Covid variants.
Two days before leaving the White House, the outgoing US president rescinded restrictions barring non-US citizens arriving from Britain, where coronavirus cases have been surging, as well as Brazil and the European Union.
He said the ban would be lifted from 26 January, the same day new Covid-19 test rules take effect for nearly all international air passengers arriving in the US.
Mr Trump said the requirement to show a negative test result to fly into the country “will help to prevent air passengers” from spreading the virus, clearing the way for him to revoke travel restrictions which have been in place since March last year.
But the move was quickly shot down by Mr Biden, who will be inaugurated as US president on 20 January and indicated he would not proceed with the lifting of the ban.
The Democrat’s incoming White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.
“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of Covid-19.”
New and more virulent Covid variants have emerged in both the UK and Brazil in recent weeks, prompting many countries to enforce new restrictions on travel.
Last week the British government banned direct flights from South America and Portugal due to concerns about the Brazilian variant.
The US has seen more than 24 million cases of Covid-19, with the death toll now close to 400,000.
Mr Trump has previously boasted of his decision to shut down travel from Europe and China, claiming he had saved millions of lives by doing so.