By Ovunc Kutlu
ANKARA (AA) - US President Joe Biden maintained Monday travel restrictions on dozens of countries due to health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, issuing an executive order as the world discovers new coronavirus variants.
Biden's widely-expected order leaves in place restrictions on travel from the 26-country Schengen Zone in Europe, as well as the UK, Ireland, and Brazil, while adding South Africa. Former US President Donald Trump had moved to lift the Europe and Brazil bans on his second to last full day in office.
That prompted the Biden transition team to quickly nix the then-outgoing president's move, announcing that Biden would not follow through on the lifting of restrictions as the US continues to find itself in the thick of an out-of-control coronavirus pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has concluded that continued and further measures are required to protect the public health from travelers entering the US from those jurisdictions, according to the White House.
"It is the policy of my Administration to implement science-based public health measures, across all areas of the Federal Government, to prevent further spread of the disease," Biden said in his executive order.
Trump's directive was slated to take effect Tuesday.
"With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
The travel restrictions apply to non-US citizens in the countries, and citizens traveling to the US from abroad are being required to test negative for the coronavirus in the three days prior to their departure, and are further ordered to quarantine after arrival.
*Michael Hernandez contributed to this story from Washington