WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will restrict travel from India starting Tuesday on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as India battles a deadly second wave of coronavirus infections.
The policy will not apply to American citizens, lawful permanent residents or other exempted individuals, according to a White House official. People in those categories will still have to test negative prior to travel, quarantine if unvaccinated and retest as negative upon entering the U.S., as is required for all international travelers.
"The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in the India," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France and New Zealand, among other countries, have imposed similar travel restrictions on India in recent days.
The new travel restrictions underscore the challenges of tackling the coronavirus pandemic on a global scale, even as progress has been made in the United States.
India surpassed 200,000 Covid-19 deaths this week, becoming only the fourth country to do so, with some experts warning that the death toll is likely higher than reported. Overall, India has recorded about 18 million cases, second only to the United States with more than 32 million cases.
The surge in new infections has stretched India's hospitals to the breaking point, leading to a shortage in oxygen, hospital beds and other critical supplies.
Vice President Kamala Harris touched upon the restrictions in comments to reporters Friday afternoon.
"As it relates to the people of India, we have a long-standing, decades-old relationship with India, particularly when it comes to public health issues," Harris said, adding that she had not spoken to her extended family in India since the restrictions were announced.
Although India is one of the world’s largest vaccine producers, the country has struggled to procure enough to inoculate its population of nearly 1.4 billion people. Experts have warned that while the U.S. and other wealthy countries race ahead in their vaccination rollouts, global vaccine inequality could prolong the pandemic for everyone as virus variants mutate and could be more infectious and evade Western vaccines.
Biden spoke to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, and administration officials said they are sending a range of supplies to the country, including oxygen equipment, raw materials used in vaccine production, rapid testing kits and the treatment remdesivir.
Psaki said two U.S. military flights arrived in India on Friday carrying oxygen cylinders, rapid diagnostic tests, N95 masks and other supplies. Harris told reporters she hoped the supplies would "provide some level of relief."
In January, Biden reinstated similar travel restrictions on most non-U.S. travelers from Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and 26 other European countries that allow travel across open borders and issued new restrictions on travel from South Africa.