Biden’s government will restrict travel from India as that country grapples with a gigantic increase in coronavirus cases, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.
The policy will go into effect on Tuesday May 4th, Psaki said in a statement. The administration made the decision based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said.
While Covid infections and deaths in the US are declining as millions of Americans are vaccinated every day, India is in some cases on an unprecedented surge.
India reported the daily death toll in Covid on Wednesday and Thursday. The country has an average of 3,050 Covid deaths per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, although media reports suggest the official number is underestimated.
India has reported an average of 357,000 new cases per day for the past seven days – a 26% increase from a week, data from Johns Hopkins shows.
The country is fighting a highly contagious variant of Covid known as B.1.617, which was first discovered there. Some believe that the variant, which contains two key mutations found separately in other coronavirus strains, is behind the recent wave of infections.
The variant has since been identified in other countries, including the United States.
There are few non-stop flights between the US and India. United Airlines is the only major US carrier offering non-stop connections between the two countries, with four daily departures to India. A similar number is planned for Air India next month, according to aviation data company Cirium.
The new travel arrangement is not expected to prohibit flights, but rather non-US citizens or permanent residents who have recently been to India – a format similar to restrictions that are reported to apply to many travel from the EU, China and Brazil Person who is familiar with the matter.
“If we are to do this, we should be clear about what we want to achieve,” said former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, of the new travel restrictions on CNBC’s “Closing Bell”.
“Most of the data shows that they have a negligible impact on the transmission of the virus and the introduction of the virus into the United States,” said Gottlieb.
“I can assure you that the variants in circulation in India, including the new 617 variant, are already here in the US,” he said.
The Biden government, facing bipartisan calls to help India tackle the daunting health crisis, announced this week that the US is sending the country more than $ 100 million worth of Covid supplies, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests.
But legislators are still putting pressure on President Joe Biden to do more for India. In a letter on Friday, House Caucus members across India and Indian Americans urged Biden to provide additional resources, including vaccines, to the country.
“Our support for India to repel this latest wave is in the national interest of the US as the pandemic will not end anywhere until it ends everywhere,” read the letter, signed by two Republicans and two Democrats in the house group .
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One Friday afternoon, Psaki said two U.S. military planes full of supplies landed in India that morning, adding that more would be arriving soon.
State Secretary Antony Blinken has turned to his Indian counterpart in the past few days, said Psaki.
Jeff Zients, Covid Response Coordinator, said at a White House meeting on the pandemic Friday after traveling from India, saying the US was “continuously monitoring” the situation. He added that America was “in very close contact with our foreign counterparts” and “will continue to follow the CDC’s science-based guidelines on travel and other matters.”
– CNBC’s Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.