Sunday, April 2, 2023

US to restrict travel from South Africa and other countries as it assesses the risks of a new Omicron variant

NANTACKET, Massachusetts. From Monday, the United States will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries, a senior Biden administration official said.

This policy was implemented out of “being overly cautious in light of the new variant of COVID-19 circulating in southern Africa,” the official said. Other countries, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan and Israel, have also placed restrictions on air passengers arriving from southern Africa.

The restrictions will apply to travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. They do not apply to American citizens and legal permanent residents, the official said.

The announcement comes after the White House organized a meeting Friday between doctors from the United States and South Africa to learn more about a new variant of the omicron coronavirus that is spreading in the region, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Friday.

Fauci and others also briefed Biden on Friday of their option. Biden said in a statement that the restrictions were “a precaution until we have more information,” and again called on Americans to get vaccinated and boosted. “If you haven’t been vaccinated or taken your kids to get vaccinated, now is the time,” Biden said.

Fauci, in an interview with CNN’s New Day, said the new version has “some mutations” that “give rise to some concern,” including “with regard to a possible increase in transmissibility and possibly evasion of an immune response.”

“We want to find out exactly what is happening, from scientist to scientist,” Fauci said of the meeting.

More on the COVID-19 pandemic

The stock market fell Friday morning with the Dow Jones shedding more than 900 points on fears of a new strain, the worst day of the year to date at the close. The S&P 500 also fell about 1.4 percent in early trading.

The World Health Organization announced the official name for the option under the protocols and called it a “worrying option” in a statement Friday morning. WHO said it first notified South Africa of this option on Wednesday.

The new option is emerging as Biden struggles with a low poll count but is optimistic that the country is emerging from the pandemic. The President traveled to Nantucket with his family, a long-standing tradition, to celebrate Thanksgiving and show how American life has improved since that time last year. He missed a trip in 2020 due to pandemic restrictions.

On Thanksgiving, Biden tried to show his confidence in tackling the pandemic when he called the NBC broadcast of the Macy’s Day parade. “My message: you will be back in two years. America is back. There is nothing that we cannot overcome, ”Biden told host Al Rocker.

Biden said in a statement Friday that the new option underscores the need for other countries to do more to increase global vaccinations, including by removing intellectual property restrictions that impede production.

Fauci said scientists are trying to determine if current vaccines work against the new variant. “After you test it, you know for sure if it escapes the antibodies we make, for example, against a virus with a vaccine,” or after infection, he said.

Fauci said determining whether an option could avoid vaccinations is a key piece of data he would like to have before recommending further action. “You are ready to do whatever you need to do to protect the American public, but you want to make sure there is a foundation for that, and that is what we are doing now,” Fauci said.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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