The U.S. will lift COVID travel restrictions on South Africa and seven other nearby countries on New Year’s Eve, the White House announced Friday.
President Joe Biden imposed the travel restrictions in late November in an attempt to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Many criticized the restrictions as ineffective even at the time, given that Omicron had already spread to Europe and elsewhere. (RELATED: Biden To Announce Plan For Free At-Home Tests Sent To Americans’ Doorsteps)
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
The ban prevents virtually all travel to the U.S. for non-U.S. citizens who recently visited South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Nambia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
Biden stated Dec. 21 that he was “considering” a reversal of the COVID restrictions. Reporters pressed him on the issue due to the prevalence of Omicron cases within U.S. borders. The first confirmed case of the variant within U.S. borders came Dec. 1.
“I’m considering reversing it,” Biden said at the time “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.”