Biden to Lift Travel Ban on Southern African Countries on Dec. 31

President had put restrictions in place as the Omicron variant began spreading around the world, but it is now the dominant strain in the U.S.

President Biden will lift a travel ban he imposed last month on non-U.S. citizens traveling from South Africa and seven other southern African countries, according to a senior administration official. The administration will lift the restrictions effective Dec. 31 at 12:01 a.m., the official said.

Mr. Biden put the restrictions in place as the Omicron variant began spreading around the world, joining countries in Europe and Asia that imposed similar policies. In addition to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi were covered by the ban.

Despite his action, the variant quickly arrived in the U.S. and is now the dominant strain, with cases surging around the country. The president told reporters earlier last week that he was considering lifting the ban because of the variant’s rapid spread.

“Remember why I said we put the travel ban on. It was to see how much time we had before it hit here so we can begin to decide what we needed by looking up what was happening in other countries,” he said. “But we’re past that now.”

The senior administration official said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Mr. Biden lift the restrictions because U.S. health officials now better understand the Omicron variant. The CDC also determined that international travelers from Southern Africa will have little effect on U.S. cases because the variant is widespread across the country, the official said.

In the U.S., the variant accounted for 73% of new U.S. infections in the week through Dec. 18, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates show, up from 13% the week before.

All international travelers will still be subject to beefed-up testing requirements the Biden administration said earlier this month. International travelers coming to the U.S. have to test within a day of departure, regardless of vaccination status.

Omicron cases have started falling in South Africa, and studies indicate that the variant may cause significantly less serious disease than earlier strains. Mr. Biden announced new steps this week in response to the variant’s spread. The administration is preparing to distribute 500 million free rapid at-home tests starting in January, raise vaccination capacity and deploy doctors and nurses to overburdened hospitals but hasn’t called for broad shutdowns.

Some cities and states are reinstating indoor mask policies or moving to require proof of vaccination to enter indoor public spaces. New York City will scale back, but not cancel, New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square, amid a wave of Covid-19 infections in the city and state, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The Wall Street Journal

Posted by on Dec 27 2021. Filed under African News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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