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A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID-19 strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.

  • The new policy does not apply to American citizens and permanent residents.
  • The restrictions are being implemented "out of an abundance of caution," administration officials said, adding that this step was recommended by U.S. government medical experts and the COVID-19 response team.

What they're saying: Biden said the new restrictions were "a precautionary measure" and that he would continue to be guided by what science and his medical team advises.

  • "For the world community: this news is a reminder that this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations," he added.
  • "The U.S. has already donated more vaccines to other countries than every other country combined. It is time for other countries to match our speed and generosity," Biden said.

The Omicron variant, known formally as B.1.1.529, has already caused countries across Europe and Asia to implement travel restrictions.

  • The variant was first reported to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24.
  • "This variant has a large number of mutations," the WHO said in a statement Friday, calling the new strain a "variant of concern."
  • Early evidence suggests "an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other" variants of concern, it added.
  • The Omicron variant likely evolved during a chronic infection of an immunocompromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient, Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, said in a statement.

Go deeper: New COVID variant concerns South African scientists

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters, WHO says — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker

First look: Senators propose bill to ban corporate PACs

Sens. Jon Ossoff and Mark Kelly. Photos: Chip Somodevilla (left), Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) will soon propose a bill prohibiting for-profit corporations from establishing and managing political action committees, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The introduction of "The Ban Corporate PACs Act" comes amid heightened scrutiny on Capitol Hill regarding money in politics, including efforts to bar companies from influencing political campaigns and federal elections. It would likely face a court challenge and First Amendment concerns.

Exclusive: YouTube shuts down two Oath Keepers channels

Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers. (Photo: Aaron C. Davis/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

YouTube has deactivated two channels linked to the Oath Keepers militia group whose members have been charged in relation to the January 6 Capitol riot, the company told Axios.

The big picture: Social media platforms that were used to plan or promote the Capitol attack have moved with varying degrees of speed to bar the accounts involved.