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United States Lifts Omicron Travel Restrictions On Southern African Countries

United States Lifts Omicron Travel Restrictions On Southern African Countries

The United States will lift travel restrictions on eight African countries including South Africa from December 31, the White House confirmed on Friday. The restrictions were imposed last month in response to the discovery in the region of the Omicron variant.

Tweeting a Reuters news story on the news, White House press secretary Kevin Munoz wrote: “The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp(ecially) boosted.”

Travel restrictions will be lifted on foreign nationals travelling from: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been highly critical of heavy-handed travel bans like those imposed by the United States in response to the Omicron variant. The WHO is particularly concerned that travel bans may dissuade countries from reporting emerging variants when they are discovered in the future.

In any case, the WHO argues, travel bans are rarely any good at keeping variants out of a country. Omicron had likely already spread outside of Africa by the time it had been detected.

U.S. officials, including White House chief medical advisor Dr Anthony Fauci defended the restrictions, saying that it helped buy the time before spread of the Omicron became entrenched.

With Omicron cases now surging across the United States, that time has long since passed.

Despite banning foreign nationals, the Biden administration’s travel ban didn’t prevent U.S. nationals from travelling to or from southern Africa. Critics feared President Biden would keep the ban in place long after it was useful to do so just like what happened with travel restrictions imposed on a slew of countries at the start of the pandemic.

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