U.S. Lifts Travel Ban to South African Countries

Image: Anton Petrus.

The travel restrictions that were placed on eight African nations to halt the spread of the omicron variant of Covid-19 will be lifted, CNBC reports. The ban that included South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi will cease on Dec. 31 at 12:01 a.m. ET.

According to the report, the recommendation came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to the health official’s belief that the current COVID vaccines are effective at preventing severe disease for those infected with omicron. Additionally, the administration said that international travel from African countries would not have a significant impact on U.S. cases because of how omicron has rapidly spread across the world.

As EBONY previously reported, the White House first instituted the travel ban to the African countries in November. During that time, the White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci briefed Biden on what countries instituted restrictive traveling measures. Canada, the European Union, and the U.K. all announced heightened restrictions on travelers from southern Africa 

“The news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “The United States has already donated more vaccines to other countries than every other country combined. It is time for other countries to match America’s speed and generosity.”

“I’ve decided we’re going to be cautious,” Biden said to reporters Friday following the announcement of the travel restrictions. “We don’t know a lot about the variant except it is a great concern, seems to spread rapidly,”

At the time,  Biden was criticized at the time by some health experts who viewed the foreign travel restrictions as antiquated.

Salim Abdool Karim, South Africa’s top infectious disease scientist said that omicron transmission appeared to be slowing down, providing a glimmer of hope that omicron will not extend the pandemic.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday that the travel ban was “never intended to be permanent; it was intended to be temporary. And lifting it is certainly our intention.”

She also added that the “value of country-based international travel restrictions is greatest early in an outbreak before the virus or variant has been widely disseminated” and that the value declines “as domestic transmission starts to contribute a larger proportion of case burden.”

According to CDC data released on Monday, the omicron variant has accounted for more than 73 percent of new cases in the U.S.

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