Biden's South Africa travel ban compared to Trump COVID restrictions he denounced
President Joe Biden’s decision to impose additional air travel restrictions on South Africa and seven other countries in response to a new COVID-19 strain is being contrasted with his response to similar policies under former President Donald Trump.
Biden issued a proclamation Friday night saying Washington would “suspend and restrict the entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of noncitizens” from the eight African nations effective Monday, though he mentioned the decision in a previous statement hours earlier in the day after Thanksgiving.
“As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries,” Biden said in the statement sent by the White House. “These new restrictions will take effect on November 29. As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises.”
Biden was among the Democratic leaders who responded with criticism to Trump’s restrictions on travel from China, where the virus originated.
"We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus," Biden tweeted early last year while still a candidate. "We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. He is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency."
Biden also said a "wall" and bans on travel would not stop the virus.
Many on social media were quick to note Biden's original tweets when this latest move was announced.
Biden later argued he was referring to Trump’s overall history of inflammatory comments about foreign countries and their nationals, not the China travel ban itself. Similarly, other Democrats contended that Trump’s order curbing travel from seven Muslim-majority countries dealing with terrorism could not be separated from his rhetoric about a broader ban on Muslim immigration during the 2016 campaign.
Only on Nov. 8 did the Biden administration loosen restrictions on European travelers to allow those with proof of vaccination and a negative test entry into the U.S. The White House has also caught criticism from some liberals for continuing to turn away migrants at the border under the Trump-era COVID-19 rule Title 42.
Biden’s newest rule will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi to buy time to study ways to slow the spread of the new COVID-19 variant, citing scientific guidance.
“Except for American citizens who are able to come back,” Biden told reporters on Friday. “We don't know a lot about the variant except that it is of great concern. It seems to spread rapidly. I spent about a half hour this morning with my COVID team led by Dr. Fauci, and that was the decision we made.”
Democrats maintain there is no comparison between Trump, whose comments about foreigners elicited criticism from the moment he described rapists coming across the border from Mexico in his 2015 campaign announcement speech, and Biden on foreign travel restrictions.
Washington Examiner Videos