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Biden plans to block Trump decision to lift COVID travel restrictions

David Brancaccio and Nova Safo Jan 19, 2021
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Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that the Biden administration plans to "strengthen public health measures around international travel." Mario Tama/Getty Images
COVID-19

Biden plans to block Trump decision to lift COVID travel restrictions

David Brancaccio and Nova Safo Jan 19, 2021
Heard on:
Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that the Biden administration plans to "strengthen public health measures around international travel." Mario Tama/Getty Images
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The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden plans to quash a last-minute announcement from President Donald Trump to lift travel restrictions from the Europe, including the U.K., and Brazil. That move had momentarily cheered the travel industry.

Marketplace’s Nova Safo has more on this. The following is an edited transcript of his conversation with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio.

Nova Safo: The restrictions we’re talking about ban most travelers from Europe, the U.K., Brazil and Ireland. President Trump’s proclamation lifting those restrictions is scheduled to take effect a week from today, on Jan. 26.

That means Joe Biden will be president, and soon after the White House announced the decision, Biden’s incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that, no, travel restrictions won’t be lifted next week.

Not only that, she said the Biden administration plans to “strengthen public health measures around international travel.” Now, she didn’t expand on what that means exactly, but it does appear that Trump’s last-minute action won’t last.

David Brancaccio: Is there a case to be made for loosening travel restrictions?

Safo: The reason Trump’s decision would take effect next week is that it would coincide with new COVID-testing requirements for international visitors to the U.S. Airlines say testing makes travel restrictions unnecessary. They have been pushing to get rid of travel bans, and have seen travel to the U.S. from some parts of Europe decline 95% or more.

Trump administration officials, including public health officials, have been coming around to the airlines’ view.

On the other hand, the World Health Organization just came out with a report that said, in part, that travel bans appear to have been effective.

Also, U.S. citizens still can’t travel to much of Europe. The bottom line is that we’re not there yet.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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