“We will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point for a few reasons. The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world. Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing.
The Biden administration has been under growing pressure from the travel industry and US allies to lift pandemic-era restrictions limiting who can travel to the US.
“For any of these recommendations, we are always going to be guided by our North Star, and that is the (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and our health and medical experts,” Psaki said.
Psaki continued: “It would be actually surprising and odd if our health and medical experts were not having … an active discussion about how to … best protect the American people.”
“And there of course is an active discussion about a range of steps that can be taken, as there has been from the first day this administration. Certainly the surge in cases among unvaccinated because of the Delta variant prompts even more discussion about what actions can be taken,” Psaki said.
Psaki also pointed to the CDC’s recent advisory against traveling to the United Kingdom due to a surge in cases there.
Tourism from abroad has been effectively halted while the Covid-19 travel restrictions remain in place. The restrictions also bar migrants from seeking asylum and prevent foreigners from visiting family.
The White House has repeatedly stressed that any decisions about reopening international travel would be guided by public health and medical experts.
Biden’s top officials launched interagency working groups last month with the European Union, Britain, Canada and Mexico to look how and when travel and border restrictions would be lifted. The groups are overseen by the White House Covid-19 response team and the National Security Council, and include representatives from the CDC along with officials from the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Transportation.
These travel restrictions don’t apply to cross-border trade, US citizens and lawful permanent residents, as well as people traveling for medical purposes or to attend school, among others.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week that the White House would rely on its own health experts and not the actions of other countries when deciding travel restrictions.
This story has been updated with additional information.