The Biden administration will continue to restrict entry of Europeans and others into the United States, citing concerns that infected travelers may contribute to further spread of the contagious Delta variant across the country, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Monday afternoon.
Concern about the variant had convinced officials not to lift the current travel restrictions on foreigners, Ms. Psaki said, some of which had been in place since the beginning of the pandemic. Vaccines remain effective against the worst outcomes of Covid-19, including from the Delta variant.
“The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world,” she told reporters, adding that cases are rising in the United States, particularly among the unvaccinated.
The decision is a blow to the travel industry, which hoped that a lifting of the travel bans could increase tourism for the remaining summer months, helping hotels, airlines and other businesses that have been struggling.
But Ms. Psaki said that it was unclear when the United States would remove the bans completely.
“I don’t have a timeline to predict for you because it’s all about what success we have at getting more people vaccinated, getting more vaccines out to the world and fighting the virus,” she said.
The United States began restricting travel from foreigners in January 2020, when former President Donald J. Trump restricted some travel from China in the hopes of preventing the spread of the virus. That effort largely failed.
But health officials pressed the Trump administration to expand travel bans to much of Europe during the first surge of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, and more countries have been added to the ban as the original virus and several variants have spread rapidly from country to country.
The Trump administration also used a public health authority known as Title 42 to effectively shut down the southern border to entry, citing worries that immigrants crossing on foot could bring the virus into the country. The Biden administration stopped enforcing the rule for unaccompanied children crossing the border alone and for some families.
But Ms. Psaki said that the Title 42 restrictions, like the other travel bans, would remain for the time being.
“We have never conveyed or announced a timeline for Title 42,” she said. “So nothing has changed in that regard, it remains in place, and it will remain in place as long as that is the guidance from our health and medical experts.”
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