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Travel Restrictions From COVID-19 Epicenter India Came ‘Weeks’ Too Late

A cataclysmic rise in COVID-19 cases on the Indian subcontinent was allowed to spread for too long before the Biden administration issued restrictions on travel, public health experts warn, a decision that could make thwarting potentially vaccine-resistant variants of the disease even more difficult just as America crosses a major milestone in vaccinations.

“Travel restrictions should have been imposed much earlier,” Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law and director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, told The Daily Beast. “We have known for some time of the crisis in India—including worrying variants.”

The Biden administration announced on Friday that the United States would restrict travel from India “immediately” in order to stem the potential spread of “multiple variants circulating in India,” a White House official told The Daily Beast, noting that the directive came on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and would take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.

But the call came weeks into an outbreak that has spun rapidly out of control in India, with hundreds of thousands of daily infections and an official death toll from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus that is estimated to be as little as one-tenth the actual number. At least two American consular employees have died in the outbreak, leading the State Department to authorize the voluntary departure of family members of embassy personnel last week.

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