The United States will not lift any existing travel restrictions “at this point” due to concerns over the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant and the rising number of U.S. coronavirus cases, the White House confirmed on Monday.
The decision, which was first reported by Reuters, comes after a senior-level White House meeting late on Friday. It means that the long-running travel restrictions that have barred much of the world’s population from the United States since 2020 will not be lifted in the short term.
“Given where we are today … with the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday, citing the spread of the Delta variant in the United States and abroad. “Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead.”
The announcement almost certainly dooms any bid by U.S. airlines and the U.S. tourism industry to salvage summer travel by Europeans and others covered by the restrictions. Airlines have heavily lobbied the White House for months to lift the restrictions and some say the industry may now have to wait until September or later for a possible revision.
The United States currently bars most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without internal border controls, or in Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
The extraordinary U.S. travel restrictions were first imposed on China in January 2020 to address the spread of COVID-19. Other countries have since been added, most recently India in early May.