The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions on eight southern African countries imposed last month over concerns over the rapidly spreading variant of Covid-19 Omicron, the White House said on Friday.
Foreign nationals banned from entering the United States because they have visited one of the eight countries in the previous 14 days will be re-permitted to take flights to the United States departing after 12:01 a.m. east coast of the United States on Dec. 31, said a senior official, confirming an earlier Reuters report.
On November 29, the United States banned nearly all non-U.S. Citizens who had recently visited South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, by “Excess of caution” vis-à-vis the variant detected in South Africa.
White House spokesman Kevin Munoz tweeted that Biden “will lift temporary travel restrictions on southern African countries” effective December 31.
He said the decision was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The restrictions have given us time to understand Omicron and we know that our existing vaccines work against Omicron, especially boosted”, Munoz tweeted.
Reuters earlier reported that U.S. public health agencies had recommended lifting travel restrictions, as maintaining them would not have a significant impact on cases in the United States given the current widespread transmission in the United States, confidence that a vaccine specific to Omicron would not be needed and that existing vaccines and boosters are very effective.
“This travel break has served its purpose. It saved time to understand the science, it gave time to analyze the variant, ”the official, who was not named until confirmation from the White House, told Reuters.
“It wasn’t intended to prevent Omicron from entering. We knew we couldn’t do this. The goal was to reduce the number of incoming cases – in those early days and weeks. “
The restrictions did not prevent flights or Americans from returning from southern Africa.
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