US to Lift Travel Restrictions on Eight African Countries
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is lifting travel restrictions on eight southern African countries imposed last month over concerns about the omicron variant.
“On Dec. 31, @POTUS will lift the temporary travel restrictions on Southern Africa countries. This decision was recommended by @CDCgov,” White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz tweeted Friday morning.
“The restrictions gave us time to understand omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against omicron, esp boosted,” he said.
On Nov. 29, the United States barred nearly all non-U.S. citizens who had recently been in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi in an “abundance of caution” over the variant first detected in South Africa.
President Biden had hinted earlier this week that the administration was considering lifting the travel ban, telling reporters he would be talking with the White House COVID Response Team “in the next couple of days.”
He also emphasized that the ban was never intended to keep the omicron variant out, rather it was intended to give the U.S. time to develop a comprehensive response to the fast-moving variant by “looking at what’s happening in other countries.”
Meanwhile, the omicron variant has been impacting last minute travelers around the globe. As of Friday morning, more than 3,000 flights had been cancelled globally, according to the Flight Aware website.
The airlines attributed most of the cancelled flight to the recent spike of omicron cases, including among airline workers.