Dec 24, 2021 - World

Biden to lift travel restrictions on southern African countries

people at an airport

Travelers arrive at Miami International Airport ahead of the long holiday week-end of Memorial Day in Miami on May 26, 2021. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The White House will lift the travel restrictions it imposed on eight African countries last month after the Omicron variant was first reported in South Africa, White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz said on Friday.

Driving the news: The restrictions will end on Dec. 31, according to Munoz. He said the decision to lift travel restrictions was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • "The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted," Munoz said in a tweet.
  • People traveling from the countries will now be subject to the same protocols the U.S. has imposed elsewhere — requiring foreigners be vaccinated and that all travelers get a negative COVID-19 test within a day of their departure.

Flashback: President Biden in late November restricted entry from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi at the recommendation of medical experts and the COVID-19 response team.

  • The restrictions apply to people who were in the countries during the 14-day period before they tried to enter the U.S. It does not apply to American citizens and permanent residents.
  • Reuters first reported on the decision to lift the restrictions.

Between the lines: Officials in South Africa had criticized countries that imposed travel bans on the nation, saying it was being punished, rather than praised, "for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker."

  • The World Health Organization also condemned restrictions, saying they place a "heavy burden on lives and livelihoods."
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