Biden Restricts Travel from South Africa and Seven Other African Countries As New, Rapidly Mutating Variant Spreads
After the World Health Organization (WHO) identified a new, heavily mutated COVID strain, now called the B.1.1.529 or the "Omicron variant," in Gauteng, South Africa, President Joe Biden, who said he is following the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced that the US will temporarily restrict travel from South Africa and seven other African countries, starting on Monday.
The White House's new travel restrictions come just 18 days after international travelers were readmitted to the US due to a nearly two-year ban due to COVID.
In addition to barring entry to travelers from South Africa, tourists from Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi are also now on the lists of countries from which US, Israel, the United Kingdom and 10 other countries will not, for now, admit visitors.
In the US, Biden’s new travel restrictions will not apply to American citizens and lawful permanent residents, however all international travelers still must provide proof of negative COVID tests prior to entering the country.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said today that New York's Department of Health, which is closely monitoring the new South African variant, has not yet identified any Omicron cases in the state.
The governor, who reminded New Yorkers to go back to COVID health protocols, added, "We are not surprised that new variants are emerging and may likely end up in New York.
"The Department of Health's Wadsworth Center Laboratory will continue to actively monitor COVID-19 virus samples selected from throughout New York State to compare sequences and identify circulating and new variants.
"We will continue to monitor WHO actions and work with our partners at the CDC to keep a close eye on developments."
"The vaccine also remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic, and this news further emphasizes the need for each of us to get vaccinated and get the booster, if you're fully vaccinated."
(Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)