U.S. to limit travel from 8 southern African nations over Omicron COVID-19 variant

The World Health Organization on Friday designated Omicron, first detected in South Africa, as a 'variant of concern' because of its large number of mutations.

The United States will restrict travel from South Africa and seven countries in southern Africa starting on Monday over the new COVID-19 variant known as Omicron.

The World Health Organization on Friday designated Omicron, first detected in South Africa, as a ‘variant of concern’ because of its large number of mutations.

White House COVID Chief Medial Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci participates in a briefing Thursday 
White House COVID Chief Medial Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci participates in a briefing Thursday

The Biden administration will be following the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and restrict travel from the eight African nations over the B.1.1.529 variant.

The eight countries are South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique and Eswatini.

In a statement, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said he had been briefed on the development by Dr. Fauci and members of his COVID response team.

He said, “This morning I was briefed by my chief medical advisor, Dr. Tony Fauci, and the members of our COVID response team, about the Omicron variant, which is spreading through Southern Africa. As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries. These new restrictions will take effect on November 29. As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises.

President Joe Biden meets with Vice President Kamala Harris and White House staff to review remarks he will deliver about COVID-19 vaccinations, Wednesday, August 18, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Erin Scott) 
President Joe Biden meets with Vice President Kamala Harris and White House staff to review remarks he will deliver about COVID-19 vaccinations, Wednesday, August 18, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Erin Scott)



“For now, I have two important messages for the American people, and one for the world community.

“First, for those Americans who are fully vaccinated against severe COVID illness – fortunately, for the vast majority of our adults — the best way to strengthen your protection is to get a booster shot, as soon as you are eligible.  Boosters are approved for all adults over 18, six months past their vaccination and are available at 80,000 locations coast-to-coast.  They are safe, free, and convenient.  Get your booster shot now, so you can have this additional protection during the holiday season.

“Second, for those not yet fully vaccinated: get vaccinated today.  This includes both children and adults.  America is leading the world in vaccinating children ages 5-11, and has been vaccinating teens for many months now – but we need more Americans in all age groups to get this life-saving protection. If you have not gotten vaccinated, or have not taken your children to get vaccinated, now is the time.

President Joe Biden receives a briefing on COVID-19 on Friday 
President Joe Biden receives a briefing on COVID-19 on Friday

“Finally, for the world community: the news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations. The United States has already donated more vaccines to other countries than every other country combined. It is time for other countries to match America’s speed and generosity.   

“In addition, I call on the nations gathering next week for the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting to meet the U.S. challenge to waive intellectual property protections for COVID vaccines, so these vaccines can be manufactured globally.  I endorsed this position in April; this news today reiterates the importance of moving on this quickly.”

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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