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U.S. To Lift Travel Restrictions On Southern Africa Countries Over Omicron Variant
The U.S. government has decided to lift travel restrictions it imposed on eight southern African nations over Omicron variant.
The mandate, which went into effect November 29, affects South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Malawi. The White House announced it would be lifted by New Year’s Eve.
“The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron, and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted,” tweeted White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz.
The restrictions were first imposed by the EU and UK. The US and a host of other countries followed suit. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called it “travel apartheid.”
As we reported, the World Health Organization regional director for South Africa, said that countries should follow the science — not the propaganda — when determining if, and when, travel bans should be implemented.
African leaders also hit back against travel bans imposed over the Omicron variant, accusing wealthy countries of being hypocrites for delivering new restrictions instead of the vaccine doses the continent desperately needs.
Justifying the move, the White House’s chief coronavirus adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, said earlier this month it was “done at a time when we were really in the dark” about Omicron.
“We all feel very badly about the hardship that might have been put upon not only South Africa, but the other African countries,” he said.
South African scientists were the first to identify the variant, which has since been detected in countries around the world. It has now emerged that Omicron was already present in Europe before the travel bans were announced. It’s still not known where Omicron originated.
The strain has spread faster than any previous variant in the US but has not yet resulted in a significant spike in hospitalizations.