Joe Biden last night torpedoed Donald Trump's last-ditch attempt to lift the Covid travel ban on non-US citizens flying from Britain, announcing instead that he would strengthen border controls.
President Trump, who leaves office on Wednesday with all-time low approval ratings, had planned to rescind the curbs imposed in mid-March in one of his last acts before he is succeeded by President-elect Biden.
Covid-19 entry restrictions have barred nearly all non-US citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the UK, Ireland and the 26 countries of the EU Schengen area that allow travel across open borders.
But the President's bid to open up Anglo-US air travel and boost the aviation industry, which has been decimated during the pandemic, was thwarted by President-elect Biden's team just minutes after Reuters news agency broke the news.
Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki declared: 'With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.
'On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.'
Joe Biden last night torpedoed Donald Trump's last-ditch attempt to lift the Covid travel ban on non-US citizens flying from Britain
Travellers in the international arrival area of Heathrow Airport, near London
Aircraft grounded due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including planes operated by British Airways, are pictured on the apron at London Gatwick Airport
Last week, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed an order requiring nearly all air travellers to present a negative test or proof of recovery from Covid-19 to enter the US starting on January 26.
Marty Cetron, director of CDC's global migration and quarantine division, told Reuters those entry bans were an 'opening act strategy' to address the virus spread and should now be 'actively reconsidered'.
Airlines had hoped the new testing requirements would clear the way for the administration to lift the restrictions that reduced travel from some European countries by 95 per cent or more.
They had pressed senior White House officials about the issue in recent days.
Passengers pictured at JFK Airport in New York last month. Restrictions on travelers from Europe have been in place since mid-March; the Brazilian entry ban was imposed in May. The Trump administration imposed the bans in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic
Travellers in the international arrival area of Heathrow Airport, near London on Monday
Many administration officials for months argued the restrictions no longer made sense given most countries were not subject to the entry bans.
Others have argued the United States should not drop entry bans since many European countries still block most US citizens.
Reuters previously reported the White House was not considering lifting entry bans on most non-US citizens who have recently been in China or Iran.
The UK's Covid strain, B117, has resulted in the country being forced back into strict lockdowns. The CDC has already warned it could become dominant in the US by March, triggering massive surges in cases.
It comes just days after Prime Ministers Boris Johnson effectively shut the UK's borders by abolishing all travel corridors amid fears of the spread of 'mutant' Covid first detected in southern England.
All arrivals to the UK from abroad will have to test negative and isolate for 10 days when they get here, regardless of where they come from.
The new regime will be backed by tougher spot checks and stay in place until at least February 15 as ministers and scientists work out how to manage the threat posed by mutations.