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Biden lifts omicron-related restrictions on travelers from southern Africa

President Joe Biden
Posted at 1:01 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 13:01:58-05

President Joe Biden on Tuesday revoked the travel restrictions on several African countries which he instituted in late November in the days after the discovery of the omicron variant strain of COVID-19.

In a proclamation published by the White House, Biden lifted the restrictions the prevented people from traveling to the United States from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In his proclamation, Biden noted that the travel restrictions were no longer necessary because health officials have assured him that people who are vaccinated have significant protection against severe omicron infection, because the variant is now widespread and because the U.S. still requires international travelers to present a negative test to enter the country.

"In light of these changed circumstances, and based on the recommendation of the CDC, I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to revoke Proclamation 10315. The travel restrictions imposed by that proclamation are no longer necessary to protect the public health," Biden's statement read.

Officials in South Africa first detected the omicron variant at the end of November. Biden imposed travel restrictions to southern Africa on Nov. 26.

Just over a month later, omicron is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S., accounting for more than 73% of cases. While daily COVID-19 cases have spiked in recent days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have remained level at about 1,100 a day.