Biden bans travel from India as coronavirus cases surge

Men wearing personal protective equipment perform the last rites of a deceased relative in a disused granite quarry repurposed to cremate the dead due to COVID-19 on April 30, 2021 in Bengaluru, India. With recorded cases crossing 380,000 a day and 3000 deaths in the last 24 hours, India has more than 2 million active cases of COVID-19, the second-highest number in the world after the U.S. (Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images/TNS)
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Josh Wingrove Bloomberg News (TNS)

President Joe Biden banned most travel to the U.S. from India beginning Tuesday as the country struggles to combat the worst surge of coronavirus cases in the world.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the ban, which won’t apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

“The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in the India,” Psaki said in a statement.

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India recorded 387,000 new infections Thursday, a record high, and nearly 3,500 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. is sending aid to India to fight its surge, and the travel restriction underscores the risk that new mutations of the virus pose even to countries with high vaccination levels. The travel restrictions also don’t apply to aid workers.

Biden has also said he’ll send vaccines to India, though hasn’t yet done so. The shots, produced by AstraZeneca Plc but not yet authorized for use in the U.S., need first to be reviewed by U.S. regulators.

Friday’s move is the latest in a series of Covid-19-related travel restrictions imposed by the Biden administration and the Trump administration before it.

Variants of the virus emerge typically in places where it’s spreading rapidly, and can prove more contagious, more harmful and more deadly as a result.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said earlier Friday that the U.S. continues to work to track the spread of variants, and is supporting similar work in other countries, including India.

“The more virus and viral replication, the virus has more chances to mutate, and this means additional opportunities for variants to evolve,” she said.

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