On January 25 President Biden issued a travel ban on the UK, Ireland, Brazil, most of Europe and South Africa. What does this mean?
For travelers with confirmed arrangements to any of these places this summer or later: nothing. You should disregard the notice, except that you should not make any additional arrangements – such as changes in your itinerary, airline reservations or extensions. For persons who were planning yet confirmed arrangements, you now need to wait.
As Biden’s proclamation explains, this travel ban order is a temporary measure which anticipates more lasting regulation from a consortium of agencies including HHS, the CDC and the Transportation Department. In other words Biden has asked his team to create policy that will address what to do in a consistent way when an unique virus danger is identified abroad.
This is not likely to occur soon. In fact it’s more likely that progress with vaccinations both here and abroad and increased science regarding virus variants leads to actions that will preempt any such inter-agency policy.
For persons with confirmed arrangements more than several months from now, I just wouldn’t worry. So much is changing so fast and the trend line at the moment is for the better.
But for the time being the January 25th ban absolutely interrupts any further planning to these destinations. This isn’t because of any specific interdictions regarding travel, because there are so many exceptions including all American citizens, nationals and today, even farm workers. This list of exceptions is likely to grow.
It interrupts valid planning to these destinations because the secondary and tertiary effects of the order are so significant.
The industry publication, TravelWeekly, interviewed about a dozen South African tour executives following the ban’s announcement. A wide variety of horrible outcomes were portrayed, and the consensus was a near unanimous belief that the ban struck a serious blow to American travel to South Africa.
For those of you with arrangements for this summer or later, the reasons you need to pause in any further planning are more concise:
Airline schedules are already set awry by the ban. These are further complicated by the fact that Europe including the UK has its own set of new, strict travel bans on South Africa. As of yesterday the only certain air carrier for easy travel between the U.S. and South Africa was Air France. Previously there were about a dozen excellent alternatives. Presumably many of these will become available again when the ban is lifted.
If your arrangements within South Africa include flights within the country, local schedules have been muddled by the ban as local airlines adjust to domestic demand as a higher priority.
South Africa this week closed 15 border posts to neighboring countries. So if your arrangements include more than just South Africa, such as Victoria Falls, they have been perforce interrupted.
Travel insurance may be voided or might not protect you if any arrangements are made, augmented or changed during a travel ban.
It’s very hard for many travelers now getting vaccinated to force a further pause in their lives. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but right now the tunnel is way too long to travel through. Don’t screw up your dreams with impatience.
Stay calm, do nothing, and stay safe.