US President-elect Joe Biden’s spokeswoman quickly dismissed Donald Trump’s announcement Monday that a COVID-19 ban on travellers arriving from much of Europe and Brazil would be lifted, underlining the fractious transition of power.
“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26,” tweeted Jen Psaki, Mr Biden’s press secretary.
“In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she added.
Just minutes prior to Ms Psaki’s tweet, Mr Trump said in a statement he would lift the travel ban on Europe and Brazil, although travel bans for China and Iran would remain in place.
“This action is the best way to continue protecting Americans from COVID-19 while enabling travel to resume safely,” he said in a statement released by the White House.
Mr Trump had announced an initial ban on 31 January, 2020 on non-American travellers entering from China to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The ban was extended to European countries on 14 March.
Both statements come days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that all air passengers bound for the US are required to test negative for COVID-19 within three days of their departure.
Mr Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, after a rocky handover of power.
Mr Trump for months had refused to accept the outcome of the 3 November election, baselessly insisting the vote had been rigged and ignoring court rulings to the contrary.
He denied Mr Biden’s team access to funds and resources and has not met with him, as is customary in presidential transitions.
Mr Trump is also set to become the first outgoing president in 152 years not to join his successor at the inauguration ceremony.
As of Monday, the US had recorded more than 24 million cases of COVID-19, with nearly 400,000 deaths.