Travel restrictions will be lifted for eight African countries under the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron.
According to a senior official in the Biden administration, the president has lifted his travel restrictions to Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Eswatini, Mozambique and Lesotho, reports CNBC. The restrictions are expected to end on December 31 at 12:01 a.m. EST.
“The travel restrictions imposed by this proclamation are no longer necessary to protect public health,” President Joe Biden said in the new proclamation, according to CNN.
The CDC recommended lifting the restrictions after health experts noticed the vaccine’s effectiveness in people infected with the Omicron strand. According to the proclamation, those vaccinated “are protected against serious illness and hospitalization due to the Omicron variant”.
President Joe Biden’s administration has also said civilians traveling from Africa to the United States will not have a widespread impact or raise health concerns despite the increasing rate of the variant.
When the newly discovered Omicron variant was spotted in South Africa, the U.S. government implemented bans on November 29. At the time, Biden required all international travelers to test negative 24 hours before their trip to the United States departed.
The restriction has led some health experts to believe Biden’s travel ban was ineffective. According to CNN, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres referred to the ban as “travel apartheid”. However, Biden defended his decision and said the restrictions allowed the country to research the variant.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday said the ban was “never intended to be permanent.”
“It was supposed to be temporary. And lifting it is certainly our intention, ”she told reporters.
The CDC said on Monday that the Omicron strand accounted for more than 73% of new cases in the United States