Wednesday, January 19, 2022

US to restrict travel from 8 African countries due to new COVID variant

The White House announced on Friday that it will begin restricting travel from South Africa and seven other countries on the African continent starting Monday in connection with the recently identified omicronic variant of the coronavirus.

Senior administration officials say the restrictions were imposed on the recommendation of President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The policy is being implemented “out of caution” with an option prevalent in South Africa that the World Health Organization has identified as an option of concern.

Biden later issued a statement calling the move “a precaution until we have more information.”

“As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by the advice of the scientists and my medical team,” Biden promised.

Other countries include Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, which share the continent’s southern travel with South Africa.

Travel restrictions will not apply to US citizens and lawful permanent residents, but everyone must test negative for the virus prior to arriving in the US.

The United States is joining more than a dozen other countries in imposing similar restrictions within hours after South African scientists announce a variant known to have a large number of mutations. However, little is known about the dangers of the strain, vaccine reaction, or transmission, so scientists are urging people to stay calm.

South African Health Minister Joe Fahla spoke out against travel restrictions on Friday.

“The reactions of some countries in terms of imposing travel bans and similar measures are completely contrary to the norms and standards set by the World Health Organization,” he told reporters.

To date, only a few dozen cases associated with this option have been identified in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

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