The United States will lift travel restrictions imposed on eight countries in southern Africa starting December 31, 2021.
Travel restrictions had been imposed on the following countries: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
The decision to lift the travel restriction was based upon the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to White House Assistant Secretary Kevin Munoz.
On Dec. 31, @POTUS will lift the temporary travel restrictions on Southern Africa countries. This decision was recommended by @CDCgov. The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted. https://t.co/NdRTtntRuE— Kevin Munoz (@KMunoz46) December 24, 2021
While Omicron is now the dominant COVID-19 variant in the US, early data from South Africa and the United Kingdom suggests patients face a lower risk of hospitalization with this particular variant.
When the World Health Organization (WHO) proclaimed Omicron to be a variant of concern, the Biden administration issued Proclamation 10315 of November 26, 2021 (Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019). The proclamation suspended and restricted the entry of non-US citizens in the United States from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
The White House said that the administration implemented the restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron variant in the United States and to enable the country to implement appropriate mitigation measures while new information emerged about the variant.
In an official proclamation dated December 28, 2021, President Biden said: “Having learned more about the Omicron variant in the past several weeks, the CDC now recommends lifting the travel restrictions imposed in Proclamation 10315. Since I issued that proclamation, our Nation’s health officials, in collaboration with the South African scientists who originally reported the variant, have made substantial progress in understanding the Omicron variant.”
The president also mentioned that the CDC has shortened its recommended isolation and quarantine period for asymptomatic COVID-19 positive and exposed people.