The U.S. Imposes Travel Restrictions in Response to New COVID-19 Variant. Again.
The U.S. is once again imposing travel restrictions to stem the spread of yet another COVID-19 variant. Today, travel restrictions snap into place for noncitizens traveling by air from South Africa and seven other African countries in response to the spread of the newly discovered omicron variant in that region.
This new variant was discovered by South African scientists last week. The World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a “variant of concern” on Friday.
That same day, President Joe Biden announced his latest round of travel restrictions, which he described as a “precautionary measure” that would give his administration more time to learn about the new variant.
The White House hasn’t said when these travel restrictions might be lifted. Biden, in a statement issued Friday, said only that “we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises.”
He encouraged people to get vaccinated or, if already vaccinated, a booster shot. The president also urged other countries to lift intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines as a means of boosting the global vaccine supply.
Other countries affected by the travel restrictions include Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
The new restrictions are already producing chaos. The Washington Post reports on how canceled flights to and from the affected countries are leaving people stuck abroad or forcing them to cancel their plans to visit family.
The Post notes that the U.S. had lifted travel restrictions on 33 countries just a few weeks prior. Biden’s latest move is yet another blow for the travel industry and those who had hoped that pandemic-era border controls would be a fading policy.
Dozens of other countries are also imposing restrictions on travel in the face of this new, quickly spreading variant.
Cases of people infected with the omicron variant have been reported in a number of countries, including the Netherlands, Israel, and Australia. On Sunday, Canada reported its first two omicron cases.
There are still many open questions about omicron, including how severe its symptoms are, how transmissible it is, and how well existing vaccines or prior COVID-19 infections protect people against this new variant.
The South African doctor who first noticed the omicron variant has said that all the cases she’s seen have been pretty mild, reports CNBC. Disease experts wh
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