Biden To Lift Travel Ban On 8 African Countries Amid Spread Of Omicron Variant
The CDC recommended lifting the restrictions after health experts observed the efficacy of the vaccine in those infected with the Omicron strand.
December 28, 2021 at 10:02 pm
Travel restrictions will be lifted for eight African countries amid the spread of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron.
According to a senior official from the Biden administration, the president will halt its travel restrictions on Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Eswatini, Mozambique and Lesotho, CNBC reports. The restrictions are set to end on Dec. 31 at 12:01 a.m. ET.
"The travel restrictions imposed by that proclamation are no longer necessary to protect the public health," President Joe Biden said in the new proclamation, according to CNN.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended lifting the restrictions after health experts observed the efficacy of the vaccine in those infected with the Omicron strand. According to the proclamation, vaccinated individuals "are protected against severe disease and hospitalization from the Omicron variant."
Biden’s administration also said that civilians traveling from Africa to the U.S. would not have a widespread impact or raise health concerns, despite the spread of the variant.
When the newly discovered Omicron variant was detected in South Africa, the U.S. government implemented bans on Nov. 29. At the time, Biden required all international travelers to test negative within the day prior to their departure to the U.S.
The restriction 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.
On Thursday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a press conference that the ban was “never intended to be permanent,” CNBC reports.
“It was intended to be temporary. And lifting it is certainly our intention,” she told reporters.
The CDC said on Monday that the Omicron strand makes up more than 73% of new cases in the U.S., according to CNBC.