The United States will ease its travel restriction on eight southern African countries.


The White House said Friday that the Biden administration will ease travel restrictions imposed last month on eight southern African nations because to worries about the rapidly spreading COVID-19 Omicron strain.

Foreign citizens blocked from entering the United States because they visited one of the eight countries during the previous 14 days would be able to board U.S.-bound aircraft departing after 12:01 a.m. ET on December 31, according to a senior official, confirming a Reuters report.

In a "abundance of caution" about the variation found in South Africa, the United States blacklisted practically all non-U.S. persons who had recently visited South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi on Nov. 29.

According to White House spokesman Kevin Munoz, Biden "will relax the interim travel restrictions on Southern African countries" on December 31.

The decision was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he added (CDC). "The limits allowed us time to understand Omicron, and we know our current vaccines, especially when boosted, work against Omicron," Munoz tweeted.

Earlier this year, U.S. public health agencies recommended lifting the travel restrictions because keeping them would have no significant impact on U.S. cases given the widespread current U.S. transmission, confidence that an Omicron-specific vaccine would not be required, and confidence that existing vaccines and booster shots are highly effective.

"This travel pause has served its purpose. It bought time to understand the science, it gave time to analyze the variant," an official said.

Flights of Americans returning from southern Africa have not been hampered by the restrictions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease researcher, stated on Monday that the limitations will most certainly be lifted "since we already have a lot of illness in our own nation... We're allowing individuals to come in from other nations that have as much or more infection as the countries of southern Africa."

In the aftermath of Omicron, the US strengthened testing requirements for overseas visitors and prolonged a requirement to wear masks on aircraft and at airports until March 18.

On December 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tightened testing requirements for overseas air travelers arriving in the United States, requiring them to acquire a negative COVID-19 test within one day of arrival.


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