Biden to lift travel restrictions on southern African countries that were put in place due to Omicron

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The restrictions will elevate on December 31 at 12:01 a.m. ET, the officers mentioned. News of the lifted restrictions was first reported by Reuters.
President Joe Biden ordered the restrictions in late November on the recommendation of his public well being officers, slicing off most journey from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. The measures barred almost all overseas nationals who had been “physically present” within the international locations through the “14-day period preceding their entry, or attempted entry into the United States.” US residents, lawful everlasting residents and noncitizens who’re the spouses of residents or everlasting residents have been exempt.

Biden and his coronavirus response workforce careworn on the time that the measure was a brief effort to gradual the unfold of the Omicron variant and provides US officers time to evaluate the variant and put together for it to hit the US. But the measure nonetheless confronted criticism after it grew to become clear that Omicron was already spreading in a number of non-African international locations earlier than it was recognized in South Africa, which has a robust public well being surveillance system.

The restrictions got here below elevated scrutiny in current weeks as Omicron was recognized within the US and notably because it grew to become the dominant variant within the final week.

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“At the time these restrictions were put in place, it was clear that there was widespread community transmission in South Africa, as well as a great deal of cross-border travel in the region and little surveillance in many of the countries near South Africa,” a senior administration official mentioned.

Biden mentioned Tuesday that he was “considering” lifting the restrictions and officers mentioned Biden had been urged in current days to reverse the ban.

A senior administration official mentioned the US Centers for Disease Control really useful the restrictions be lifted for 2 key causes.

“First, our nation’s health officials have made progress in understanding Omicron; importantly, our existing vaccines are effective against severe disease with Omicron, especially if you’re boosted. Second, with Omicron now present across the US and globally, international travelers from these countries will not have a significant impact on US cases,” the official mentioned.

The eight international locations will now be topic to the identical coronavirus journey protocols the US has imposed on different international locations, requiring foreigners be totally vaccinated and that every one vacationers get a unfavorable coronavirus take a look at inside sooner or later of departure to the US.

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