President Joe Biden banned most trips to the United States from India in early Tuesday as the country struggles with the world’s largest influx of coronavirus cases.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a ban that would not apply to U.S. citizens or residents.
“The policy will be implemented in the light of the unusually large number of Covid-19 cases and the many options circulating in India,” Psaki said in a statement.
India registered 387,000 new infections on Thursday, a record high and nearly 3,500 deaths, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. Gail Smith, coordinator of the State Department for Covid̵
“The crisis has not yet reached its peak,” she said.
United Airlines Holdings Inc., the only carrier in the United States with direct service to India, said in a statement that it would “comply with all government regulations and travel orders.”
“United is proud of the basic air service we offer to connect our two countries, and we will continue to support India in times of need,” the statement said.
The United States is sending aid to India to combat its jump, and the travel restriction underscores the risk that the new mutations in the virus pose even to countries with high levels of vaccination. Travel restrictions also do not apply to humanitarian workers.
The United States delivered oxygen and other supplies to India on Friday, according to the Biden administration. The gas used to treat patients with severe Covid-19 is scarce in the country and a black market has emerged, according to media messages.
Biden also said he would send vaccines to India, but has not yet done so. The shots produced by AstraZeneca Plc, but not yet approved for use in the United States, must first be reviewed by US regulators.
Friday’s move is the latest in a series of Covid-related travel restrictions imposed by the Biden administration and the Trump administration before it.
Variants of the virus usually appear in places where it spreads rapidly and as a result can be more contagious, more harmful and more deadly.
Rochelle Valensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said earlier Friday that the United States continues to work to track the spread of options and supports similar work in other countries, including India.
“The more viral and viral replication there is, the more likely the virus is to mutate, which means additional opportunities for variation to evolve,” she said.
“With the help of Justin Sink.”
(Updates with Smith’s remarks in the fourth paragraph.)