US President Joe Biden speaks to the press after disembarking from Airforce One after arriving in Wilmington, Delaware on March 26, 2021. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images
The Biden administration is banning most travel from India amid its escalating COVID-19 outbreak.
Biden has gone back and forth on the issue of travel bans.
Last year, Biden said that banning all travel from any part of the world would not stop COVID-19.
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The Biden administration on Friday announced it’s barring most travel from India starting next week in response to the escalating COVID-19 crisis in the country. The move goes against past statements made by President Joe Biden on travel bans, including once stating that such restrictions would “not stop the coronavirus.”
Conservative critics of the president have misleadingly said that Biden called President Donald Trump’s travel restrictions on China xenophobic, painting the new prohibitions on travel from India as hypocritical. Biden never explicitly said this, but he has gone back and forth on the issue of travel bans or restrictions.
On the same day Trump announced travel restrictions on China last January, Biden during a campaign speech in Iowa said, “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysterical xenophobia and fear mongering to lead the way instead of science.”
The Biden campaign told the Washington Post that he was referencing Trump’s call for travel bans during the Ebola crisis as well as his travel restrictions on predominantly Muslim countries, and pointed to similar remarks Biden made in a USA Today op-ed four days before the China ban was announced. “I remember how Trump sought to stoke fear and stigma during the 2014 Ebola epidemic,” Biden said in the op-ed, denouncing Trump for pushing for “reactionary travel bans that would only have made things worse.”
Biden was also critical of Trump’s restrictions on travel with regard to Europe.
In a tweet last March after Trump suspended travel both to and from a number of European countries, Biden said, “A wall will not stop the coronavirus. Banning all travel from Europe – or any other part of the world – will not stop it. This disease could impact every nation and any person on the planet – and we need a plan to combat it.”
Around that time, Biden also unveiled a plan to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking to reporters on the plan, Biden said, “Banning all travel from Europe or any other part of the world may slow it, but as we’ve seen, it will not stop it. And travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics rather than a risk will be counterproductive.”
But Biden in early April then came out and expressed support for Trump’s travel restrictions on China. “Joe Biden supports travel bans that are guided by medical experts, advocated by public health officials, and backed by a full strategy,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager at the time, told CNN. “Science supported this ban, therefore he did too.”
Some public health experts have questioned the efficacy of travel bans in preventing the spread of COVID-19, though many have also advocated for varying levels of travel restrictions regarding certain countries where the outbreaks are especially bad – including India.
Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center, in a tweet on Friday said, “[The] US has started a humanitarian mission to assist India. A flat travel ban impedes our vital humanitarian goals. That’s why proof of vaccination or a negative test makes sense, but not a ban. It doesn’t stop the flow of medical supplies, but does help keep variants from our shores.”
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