Biden Administration to lift travel restrictions on 8 southern African countries

Dec 24, 2021

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A ban on foreign nationals arriving to the U.S. from eight southern African countries will be lifted at 12:01 a.m. E.T. on Dec. 31, according to Reuters.

The travel restriction was imposed on Nov. 29 after the discovery of the omicron variant by South African scientists in early November. The ban applies to almost all non-U.S. citizens who had traveled to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe or South Africa 14 days prior to traveling to the U.S.

The World Health Organization (WHO) labeled omicron a variant of concern on Nov. 26.

A U.S. official stated that U.S. public health agencies recommended lifting the travel restrictions for several reasons, including the widespread transmission of the variant in the. U.S. despite the ban and that existing vaccines and boosters are expected to be “highly effective.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, stated that the ban was likely lifted because of the high rate of infections already in the country. Fauci also pointed out that the U.S. did not bar entry for visitors from other countries with similar or higher infection rates.

The U.K. has also lifted its ban on 11 southern African countries from its recently reinstated travel red list. The list included  the same countries as the U.S. as well as Angola, Nigeria and Zambia. Visitors to the U.K. from red list countries were required to self-isolate in quarantine hotels for up to 10 days at a cost of over $3,000.

The EU will uphold its late November decision to suspend travel from southern Africa despite the variant continuing to spread throughout Europe. Brussels urged lifting the “inefficient” ban over the omicron variant but member nations are reluctant to drop it at this time, according to the EU’s Justice Commissioner Didier Reynolds.


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