President Joe Biden said Tuesday he’s “considering reversing” the travel ban issued to South Africa and seven other countries shortly after Thanksgiving due to the Omicron variant.
Biden announced travel restrictions from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi on Nov. 26 after South Africa identified the newest variant. Omicron is believed to be more transmissible but may have less severe symptoms than previous coronavirus variants.
With Omicron cases so prevalent in the U.S., the president was asked about reversing the travel ban Tuesday. The administration has always maintained that the travel restrictions were temporary. (RELATED: Biden To Announce Plan For Free At-Home Tests Sent To Americans’ Doorsteps)
“I’m considering reversing it,” Biden said. “I’m gonna talk with my team in the next couple days. Look, remember why I said we put the travel ban on. It was to see how much time we had before it hit here so we could begin to decide what we needed by looking at what’s happening in other countries. But we’re past that now, and so that’s something that is being raised with me by the docs and I’ll have an answer for that soon.”
The restrictions officially began Nov. 29, and less than two days later the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the first known case of the Omicron variant had been identified inside the U.S. Since then, Omicron cases have exploded, and it’s believed that 73% of new cases in the country are now linked to the variant, according to The Associated Press.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee, one of the first doctors to treat Omicron in South Africa, told said Monday on CNN that cases in the province where it was first identified are beginning to drop. Coetzee has been outspoken about the variant since it was first identified and previously said she was seeing patients with “very mild” symptoms.