US to lift Omicron travel ban on eight African countries | US news

The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions on eight southern African countries imposed last month over concerns about the fast-spreading Covid-19 Omicron variant, the White House said Friday.

Foreign nationals who are barred from the US because they have been in one of the eight countries within the prior 14 days will again be allowed on US-bound flights leaving after 12.01am US east coast time on 31 December, a senior official said, confirming an earlier Reuters report.

The United States on 29 November barred nearly all non-US citizens who had recently been in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi in an “abundance of caution” over the variant detected in South Africa.

White House spokesman Kevin Munoz tweeted that Biden “will lift the temporary travel restrictions on Southern Africa countries” effective 31 December.

He said the decision was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted,” Munoz tweeted.

Reuters reported earlier US public health agencies had recommended lifting the travel restrictions because retaining them would have not a significant impact on US cases given the widespread current US transmission, confidence that an Omicron-specific vaccine would not be necessary and that existing vaccines and booster shots are highly effective.

“This travel pause has served its purpose. It bought time to understand the science, it gave time to analyze the variant,” the official, who was unnamed prior to White House confirmation, told Reuters.

“This was not meant to keep Omicron out. We knew we couldn’t do that. The point was to reduce the number of cases coming in – in those early days and weeks.“

The restrictions have not prevented flights or Americans from returning from southern Africa.

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