Starting December 31 | U.S. To Lift Travel Ban On 8 African Countries

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WASHINGTON: The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions on eight southern African countries imposed last month over concerns about the fast-spreading COVID-19 Omicron variant, the White House said Friday.

Foreign nationals who are barred from the United States because they have been in one of the eight countries within the prior 14 days will again be allowed on U.S.-bound flights leaving after 12:01 a.m. ET on Dec. 31, a senior official said, confirming a Reuters report.

The United States on Nov. 29 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 detected in South Africa.

White House spokesman Kevin Munoz tweeted that Biden “will lift the temporary travel restrictions on Southern Africa countries” effective Dec. 31.

He said the decision was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted,” Munoz tweeted.

Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday that lifting the restrictions was likely “because we have enough infection in our own country … We’re letting in people from other countries that have as much or more infection than the southern African countries.”

The official emphasized the restrictions were meant to be temporary and lifting them after about a month “sends a pretty clear signal that there’s not going to be a significant penalty” for coming forward to disclose new variant information.

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