Biden bans travel from safe countries, permits travel from high-risk nations

Biden bans travel from safe countries, permits travel from high-risk nations
Delta variant: different from SARS-CoV2, perhaps, but symptoms like the common cold. CDC/LU Staff mage

The Biden administration has imposed a very stupid travel ban that gives worse treatment to nations that fought the spread of COVID-19. It is banning almost all travel from safe European countries with low COVID-19 death rates and high vaccination rates. Yet it is permitting travel from countries with high coronavirus death rates and low vaccination rates.

Visitors can’t travel to the U.S. from our NATO allies Portugal, Iceland, Belgium, and France, even though their populations are mostly vaccinated (81% in Portugal, 77% in Iceland, 72% in Belgium, and 64% in France).

But they can travel to the U.S. from Russia, which is only 28% vaccinated. On September 18, 793 Russians died of coronavirus, compared to 307 Americans and 28 French people. Far fewer people died in France, Portugal, Iceland, and Belgium, over the past week, than in Russia  (both in absolute numbers and percentage terms).

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People can also travel to the U.S. from Malaysia, which had more deaths (376) than the entire U.S. on September 18, despite having only a tenth of America’s population. Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim southeast Asian country, had more deaths on Saturday than all of Western Europe. But Western Europeans, unlike Malaysians, can’t travel to the U.S.

Visitors can also come from other countries with high COVID death rates, such as Bulgaria and Moldova, which are only 22% vaccinated, and Albania, which is only 29% vaccinated.

Over the course of the pandemic, Bulgaria has had over 2900 deaths per million people, compared to fewer than 2100 deaths per million people in the United States, fewer than 100 deaths per million people in Iceland, and fewer than 1800 deaths per million in France. 43 people died in Bulgaria on September 18 of coronavirus, even though Bulgaria has only seven million people. More people died of COVID in Bulgaria alone over the past week than in France, Portugal, Iceland, and Belgium combined, which collectively have a population twelve times bigger than Bulgaria. But Bulgarians can travel to the U.S., but French, Portuguese, and Belgian people cannot.

As Ellen Carmichael notes, “Under the Biden Travel Ban, ALL but 3 banned nations have equal or BETTER vaccination rates than the U.S. Meanwhile, among countries allowed under the Biden Travel Ban, ALL but 3 perform WORSE than the U.S. on vaccines.”

People working legally in the U.S. are being trapped overseas due to this travel ban, even though they have jobs and families here. The American Enterprise Institute points out that the “travel ban restricts travel from countries with lower COVID-19 case rates than the countries from which travel is not restricted” and “lower infection rates than the US.” So if a foreign worker living legally in the U.S. “travels to a blacklisted country — where he is less likely to get infected than in the US — he is not allowed to return home.”

Meanwhile, thousands of unvaccinated people are pouring across our southern border “after Biden said illegal immigrants won’t have to get vaccinated,” reports the London Daily Mail. They are coming from Mexico, where COVID-19 is raging, and 765 people died on September 18 — a far higher daily death toll than in the U.S.

But you can’t come from the United Kingdom, unless you have a special exemption. As John Sopel of the BBC noted,

As I am writing this, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in the air on his way to the US. A couple of dozen journalists will be on the plane with him. An advance party is already in Washington DC. Every one of those will be allowed in because the American authorities have granted them a National Interest Exemption. Without it, you cannot enter the US from the UK…But why? Or to put it simply, what possible justification is there for President Joe Biden to keep this travel ban in place? It’s a blunt instrument that prevents family members from visiting sick relatives, grandparents meeting grandchildren, business-people… from coming into the country to invest.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


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