The United States said Monday it would maintain restrictions on international travel into the country, sidestepping European pressure, pointing to a surge of cases of the Covid-19 Delta variant at home and abroad.
“We will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
“The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world.”
In its latest advisories, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended avoiding travel to Spain and Portugal, two popular destinations for American tourists, due to growing cases of Covid-19.
The United States issued the same guidance for Cyprus, a week after also recommending against travel to Britain, the top international destination for US travelers after Mexico and Canada in 2019.
Covid cases have also been rising again in the United States, overwhelmingly due to the Delta variant among people who have not been vaccinated despite the wide availability of doses.
Psaki said the White House projected that Covid cases would keep rising “in the weeks ahead.”
Asked how travel restrictions would help, Psaki said, “Yes, it is the dominant variant in the United States. That doesn’t mean that having more people who have the Delta variant is the right step.”
The United States has restricted travel from the European Union, Britain, China and Iran for more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, later adding other countries including Brazil and India.
The European Union in June opened up to travelers from the United States, typically requiring proof of vaccination or negative tests, under pressure from tourism-dependent nations such as Greece, Spain and Italy that feared another bare season.
EU leaders have asked the United States to show reciprocity, and President Joe Biden on July 15 said he would have an answer on the issue “within the next several days” after appeals by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The United States makes widespread exceptions including for students, scholars, journalists and businesspeople, but European leaders have complained that the regulations inconvenience ordinary people and hinder transatlantic trade.
Top US government scientist Anthony Fauci warned Sunday that the United States is “going in the wrong direction” and repeated appeals for hesitant people to get vaccinated.
“It certainly is in retreat among the vaccinated,” Fauci told CNN.
“It’s like you have two kinds of America. You have the very vulnerable unvaccinated part and you have the really relatively protected vaccinated part.”