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.
Individuals wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) wear the body of a person who died of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during a mass cremation at a crematorium in New Delhi, India on April 26, 2021.
Adnan Abidi | Reuters
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 about 357,000 new cases per day for the past seven days – an increase of about 26% 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.
A patient wearing an oxygen mask is taken to a COVID-19 hospital for treatment while coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreads in Ahmedabad, India on April 26, 2021.
Amit Dave | Reuters
There are few non-stop flights between the US and India. United Airlines is the only major US carrier offering non-stop flights 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 order 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 that are circulating in India, including the new 617 variant, are already here in the US,” he said.
U.S. Army personnel prepare to unload coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief supplies from the United States at the cargo terminal of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India on April 30, 2021.
Prakash Singh | Reuters
The Biden government, facing bipartisan calls to help India tackle the daunting health crisis, announced this week that the US is sending more than $ 100 million worth of Covid supplies to the country, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests.
But lawmakers are still putting pressure on President Joe Biden to do more for India. In a letter Friday, members of the House Caucus across India and Indian Americans urged Biden to provide additional resources, including vaccines, to the country.
“Our support for India to fight back 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 briefing 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.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, health technology company Aetion Inc., and biotech company Illumina. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.