Official: United States Adds New South Africa Travel Ban

Filed Under: Travel

Not only is President Biden extending former President Trump’s travel bans, but he’s also adding another country to the list. This was rumored yesterday, and has been made official today.

This update is in addition to the US requiring pre-travel coronavirus testing for all arriving international passengers, and the eventual introduction of a quarantine requirement for those arriving in the US (the exact details of this remain to be seen).

Biden adding South Africa travel ban

Biden is introducing a new South Africa travel ban as of January 30, 2021. This will work similarly to other travel bans we’ve seen, meaning that:

  • Americans will still be allowed to travel to South Africa
  • With this ban, non-Americans who have been in South Africa in the past 14 days won’t be permitted to enter the United States
  • Some exceptions will apply, like certain essential travelers, family members of Americans, etc.

Americans will still be allowed to visit South Africa

The concern here is that South Africa has a new coronavirus variant that poses a much greater risk (this is different from the new variant in the United Kingdom). Not only is this strain more infectious, but it also poses a risk of reinfection.

My take on the new South Africa travel ban

I get it, the new coronavirus variant found widely in South Africa (and probably in most other countries by now) is scary. In many ways this seems more legitimate than other travel bans, even though this variant is already presumably all over the globe.

However, I really don’t get the execution of this:

  • This ban applies as of January 30, meaning it will cause more people to rush to travel from South Africa to the United States, potentially causing more cases to be imported more quickly; why isn’t the ban effective immediately?
  • This ban does nothing to prevent Americans from traveling to South Africa and returning to the US; last I checked, coronavirus doesn’t discriminate based on your passport or residency
  • I get that the US typically can’t prevent Americans from returning home, but if this poses a big risk, how about a mandatory government quarantine upon arriving in the US?

Admittedly the Biden administration can only do so much, and has only been in power for five days, but I can’t help but feel like this won’t do much to help.

This ban is intended to counter the new coronavirus strain

Biden extending existing travel bans

We knew this was going to happen, but it’s now official:

It’s now official that these bans are being extended. Even if these bans were to be lifted at some point, keep in mind that this wouldn’t impact the ability of Americans to travel to these countries.

The existing EU travel ban is being extended

Bottom line

Biden has not only extended existing travel bans against Brazil and much of Europe, but he is also introducing a new South Africa travel ban. This is in addition to a new pre-travel testing program, as well as a potential quarantine requirement on the horizon.

I get the new coronavirus strain in South Africa poses a great danger, but I just don’t get the execution here — the ban starts applying in several days, and Americans can still freely travel to South Africa.

What do you make of the new South Africa travel ban?

  1. I think the rationale for “discriminating” against US passport holders and those who don’t is that it’s hard to keep someone out of their home, you know, where their family and health system and support and livelihood is centered.

  2. Sooooo then…….Biden’s banning Africans from coming to the US. Thats pretty racist. Come on man!!!!

  3. “Presumably South Africa is being singled out here because the country has quite a few cases of the new coronavirus strain.”

    While the ban is porous as all get out, the reason South Africa is being singled out is because they have seen rampant spread of a *different* new strain than the B.1.1.7 often referred to as the U.K. strain. The new South African strain (501.V2) is far more worrisome because it isn’t just more infectious but also poses risk of re-infection. It seems not to be treatable with anitbodies developed from earlier strains. And that gets really scary when you start to think about how mutations could evade vaccines (at least temporarily).

  4. Does anybody want to travel to US, the epicenter of COVID? No one wants to take the chance of getting infected or shot.

  5. Hmm… I seem to remember a time when Trump’s travel bans were condemned as racist. I wonder what’s different now?

  6. Hey Ben,
    Do you know what is the current situation on the Europe travel ban? Trump signed the order lifting it with effect on Jan 26 12:01 AM. Biden stated that he would reinstate de ban, but at this point he haven’t done so. This means that at the moment if nothing changes Europeans can enter the US on January 26th?

  7. Yes hmmm Sam keep pondering…it must be hard to think with that MAGA hat on too tight.

    Travel ban of China while COVID was pouring in from Europe was considered at the time xenophobic.

  8. Letting Americans travel to South Africa without a quarantine or vaccine+test upon return is stupid. ….and that is No Malarkey, man

  9. The South African strain is much more problematic and could negate vaccines. Unfortunately it is in 20+ countries already so more action is needed by every country to minimize it.

  10. Going to agree with the wing nuts on this one, not well played Team Biden. Travel bans that do not include some sort of heightened scrutiny for Americans has zero chance of being effective in meeting the stated goal. All smoke and mirrors. When Biden takes the smallest step toward regulating domestic movement, I’ll accept his bans on foreigners are more then a xenophobic distraction.

  11. I’m not sure any President could enact the sort of travel ban required to maximize the chance of preventing additional spread. Quite a few people seem to think that “wear a mask” is infringing on personal freedom, so if the government starts putting in solid, enforced restrictions on travel then that will be treated as the start of a police state.

  12. Every attempt to curb this virus is impeding on “freedoms”. Tired of reading the nonsense by some of these ignorant people. At this point I sincerely hope natural selection runs its course and the dumb catch covid and let them pray that they aren’t on the wrong end of the 1% mortality rate that’s spouted so often.

  13. “While I can in theory see the logic of this ban, the problem is that this ban does nothing to discourage or prevent Americans from visiting South Africa.” They can’t prevent citizens from going to other countries or returning from them. It would be nice to think that Americans are bright enough not to go to South Africa and risk bringing back a covid variant, but there is a segment of American society that are selfish and will do exactly that and put everyone else at risk. What they should do is have mandatory quarantine for people from areas where there is a new variant. Not self-quarantine, but instead the government putting you into quarantine where you don’t have the option to leave until the quarantine time is up. Then we will see just how badly people want to travel to south africa right now.

  14. Why in the world would you wait until January 30th to begin the ban if the threat is real? Seems like having unprotected sex and then deciding you better use a condom the next time. Too little too late.

  15. Can anyone near Mr. Biden tell him that apartheid went away in 1994 when Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa. To add a travel ban against South Africans must be racist as COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate based upon the status of someone’s passport. He must be doing this for a sinister reason.

  16. I am fully vaccinated and desperate to visit friends in Kew West – however it loks totally impossible not only now but for next few months. Sadly I am not sure if there is sense to book any flights until end 2021.

  17. To all those who are saying “and you called Trump racist” – let me remind you he called it the “China virus”, continuing a centuries-old tradition of labeling diseases after countries, as long as they aren’t your country. 😛

    With that said, this is a derpy policy. If you are blocking travel from South Africa, you had better block your citizens from going there as well. Bringing the virus back is easy peasy and has nothing to do with South African residents.

  18. Rob – my wife and I are both in healthcare and fully vaccinated. It’s not until you’re here that you realize that vaccination isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I still have to mask, I still shouldn’t travel, I still am not sure whether I can transmit it to my friends and parents.

    We need *everyone* to be vaccinated in order for this to mean anything. That means global effort, mass-vaccination efforts fully deployed ASAP. Like, we should be making 50 million of these a day.

    Do we know a country that has production-at-scale down to a science? Hmm…

  19. Only South Africa??

    I guess many virus mutations are exploding in many countries now…

    Whats next?

    Stopping any flight from anywhere??
    Israel just closed their airports!


    Just get passengers tested negative before boarding plus/or quarantine them after arrival.

    But do not kill the whole travel and flight industry…

  20. We are in a national emergency. It’s time we started acting like like it.” — Joe Biden

    Thank you, may I have some more travel bans PLEASE!

  21. If its racist to call it UK variant then it is for South African variant as well. The ban is due to the new variant and not due to color of somebody’s skin. So try to use every last bit of brain cell you may have left after four years of cult following. If not then just STFU.

    That being said, I agree waiting until 1/30 does not make any sense as-if the virus has given an advanced notice. Also, due to “infringing of Americans’s freedom” if admin can’t ban them from traveling to banned countries they should do what Aus has done, negative teat result and forced quarantine in designated hotels paid for by travelers. Will help some hotels as well

  22. Ole,
    Did you leave your house today? This week? This month? Last year?
    If you answered yes, you shouldn’t have. No excuses accepted. Come on man…..there’s a pandemic man!!

  23. Using passport holders as the criteria is a joke. So many people have multiple passports and use it as a way to bypass the travel bans. Sure, Brazil is in the travel ban, yet hundreds are flying between MIA and GRU/GIG daily. And it’s all legal, because they hold both passports. If Lucky (or I) wanted to travel to Europe and return to the US, we could as well.

    If Biden wanted to be serious about all of this, he’d limit travel to permanent US residents only: aka those who need to get “home”.

  24. Why is everyone hung up on race here. The ban on travel too and from South Africa has nothing to do with race. You should be aware that the vast majority of South Africans who travel the US and South Africa are white, just like Mr Biden.

  25. The easiest thing to do is travel ban all countries and if someone has to travel due to emergency, when they come back, they have to sit in government sponsored quarantine hotel for 21 days. After 21 days they get tested. If positive, more quarantine until two tests three days apart that come out negative. No if’s and buts. If someone is desperate enough to travel, then they are willing to sit in a quarantine hotel for a period of time. I think that’s pretty fair.

  26. If you read the Trump proclamation it includes a variety of visa holders other than US citizens, that are allowed access to the USA including permanent residents and direct family. All this is meant to do is keep out tourists to reduce the likelihood of the spread. Don’t forget that SA had an even harsher travel ban in place until late November and you could not access SA if not a Citizen or resident until times got tough and they needed tourists back. So this has absolutely nothing to do with racism and being a South African living in the USA I have waited for months to go home. Which I am doing on the 31st as long as the CDC says the proclamation remains in place to include permanent residents so that o can get back into the USA.

  27. A travel ban based on citizenship and large, very heterogenous areas (such as Schengen) is discriminatory and purely political.

    As regards the ban on South Africa, I can understand precautionary measures being takes, but again citizenship is not a feasible criterion.

  28. This is a form of discrimination based on race and I can’t believe how people are okay with this ban. But if it was Trump who imposed this ban, every media would be calling him out…

  29. the real question is if a white south african came to the us, would he/she be considered an african-american? assuming they became citizens?

  30. @Chris, that is why I put infringement of freedom in quotes. I don’t agree with that argument/psychology. There are times when collective rights are much more important than individual rights. And to be honest anyone complaining about loss of freedom has no idea what loss of freedom is. Ask Chinese, North Koreans.

    I like the Australian approach of lockdown. I understand logistically its easier to do it for 25M people and when you are so far on the map, but surely Biden administration could have come up with a much more logical approach. The ban should be based on travel history irrespective of the nationality of one’s passport.

  31. @Ole

    People in China know the type of freedoms they want. Freedom to stay alive is much better than over 400k death, isn’t it?

  32. @ tukfresser: LOL!!! Yes, because officially, China had only 4,635 since the pandemic started. Yes, they invested the virus but barely anyone from their country died. Isn’t it interesting?

  33. Hilarious how so many people who clearly don’t give a shit about racism or how racism affects their fellow citizens suddenly want to say something is racist.

  34. Why don’t you all read the actual proclamation before jumping to conclusions about racism, Biden’s ulterior motives or comparisons to Trump. There has been no change to Trumps proclamation, other than adding SA to the list and obligation to reconsider the restriction every month within the next 30 days. Have some common sense people, it has nothing to do with your passport or your skin color, we have a pandemic killing people by the thousands everyday!!! What South Africa needs to do is stay home!! Wear masks!!! And get the vaccines disbursed to the public ASAP!!!

  35. Yikes, I have a trip planned to Zimbabwe and South Africa this coming March. Crossing my fingers I’ll still be able to go

  36. For Biden Defense Squad arriving on the scene, nobody believed Trump was even trying to protect public health. Your guy claims he is trying. On that basis, the policy is so laughably bad with massive holes for exempt classes as to invite ridicule. Most testing in US is done in private labs that are not evening looking for SA variant. Might want to suggest labs take a look. Not as much fun as banning people from a developing economy. Team Biden = Tanzania. See no evil; find no evil.

  37. Thats great Biden, as a South African working in the USA I cannot freaking go back home to see my family without giving up my job (since your ban doesnt allow me to return) but my F**king boss who is american can go to SA for vacation. What kind of idiotic ban is this?

  38. Why is Biden not listening to the WHO?

    “Recommendations for international traffic WHO continues to advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

    In general, evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions. Furthermore, restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses, and may have negative social and economic effects on the affected countries. However, in certain circumstances, measures that restrict the movement of people may prove temporarily useful, such as in settings with few international connections and limited response capacities.”

  39. Hi Ben. Today is February 28th 2021. My parents were supposed to come to meet their grandson for the first time in July last year when covid shut down the airports. Then the flights from SA to USA resumed and my parents got all excited and were supposed to come after Christmas. Then Biden banned flights from SA again. Now all airports are open but I have no additional info whether my parents can come (to the USA). Does anyone know of any updates? Or when the ban will subside? It’s like he (Biden) forgot that he banned South Africans. It’s breaking my heart not to be able to see my parents and them not seeing our son – almost a year old now- and he has never met his ouma and oupa. It’s devastating. Plus, I could really do with my mom’s great food. Grrrrr!!

  40. Its now April and I am looking to plan a trip to South Africa (from US) for my family. We are all vaccinated. I am not really worried. Thoughts?

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