The White House Says It Won't Be Lifting This Controversial COVID Rule

Administration officials say this one policy is staying in place for now.

Public health safety measures such as wearing face masks, social distancing, and capacity restrictions were hallmarks of life under the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as case numbers have decreased and vaccination rates have increased across most of the U.S., health officials have begun removing many policies as life begins to return to normal. But on the federal level, some policies have stayed in place, including one controversial COVID rule that the White House says it won't be lifting as soon as some people would like. Read on to see which restriction is staying in place for now.

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The White House says it won't be lifting international travel restrictions for the time being.

A woman wearing a face mask standing in an empty airport with her suitcase
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Even as life continues to revert to normal on the domestic front, it may be a while before borders see the same reopening. According to a White House official, the Biden administration has no plans to lift the international travel restrictions currently in place, despite previously announcing an international expert working group tasked with safely resuming travel.

"While these groups have met a number of times, there are further discussions to be had before we can announce any next steps on travel reopening with any country," the White House official told Reuters. "We have made tremendous progress domestically in our vaccination efforts, as have many of these other countries, but we want to ensure that we move deliberately and are in a position to sustainably reopen international travel when it is safe to do so."

Groups are pressuring the government to reopen borders to travel.

Portrait of a male traveler wearing a face mask at the airport with the flight schedule at the background while looking at his boarding pass - travel concepts
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The announcement comes amid mounting pressure from lawmakers and business groups in the U.S. who argue the restrictions are putting a strain on major sectors of the economy, including tourism, air travel, hospitality, and trade. Many are calling for the reopening of borders for non-essential travelers, at least between the United States and Canada and the European Union.

During a press conference on July 6, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged the hardships created by the current bans, saying the administration was working towards a safe reopening. "We know that, in many cases, families are separated. We know that's a heartbreaking challenge that a lot of people are dealing with. And a lot of people are eager to travel, be with loved ones, or even do work travel. We understand that. We're eager to do that as well," she told reporters.

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Non-citizens who have been in certain countries are currently banned from entering the U.S.

Portrait of a male traveler wearing a face mask at the airport and looking at the flight schedule
andresr / iStock

Under the current travel restrictions that have been in place since January, most foreign nationals who have been in the U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, Iran, China, and 26 countries within the European Union within the past 14 days are currently barred from entering the U.S. India was also added to the list of countries in early May.

The travel ban does not apply to American citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S. and their spouses, young children, or siblings, or the parents of any citizen or permanent resident under the age of 21. However, even those exempt from the travel ban are still subject to the current CDC guidelines for international arrivals to the United States, which require a negative COVID-19 test within three days before traveling. In addition, those who are not vaccinated must also self-quarantine for a full week after their arrival.

Other travel restrictions were recently extended by the government.

Woman sitting in the train and wearing a protective mask. She is looking trough the window.
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Travel bans are the only COVID restrictions that have been kept in place by federal authorities. Last month, officials extended restrictions barring non-essential travel at Mexican and Canadian land borders until July 21. And in April, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extended its mask mandate, requiring all travelers in transit on airplanes, trains, buses, and ferries or passing through transit hubs such as airports to wear a face covering through at least Sept. 13.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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