President Joe Biden said on Friday that the United States will restrict most visitors from eight southern African nations from entering the country beginning on Monday, following the discovery of a possibly more infectious new coronavirus variant in South Africa.
The new strain, named Omicron, presents a fresh hurdle for Biden, who has had mixed results in getting Americans vaccinated following a politically driven opposition from ten states. International health professionals and foreign governments have also chastised Biden for neglecting to supply immunizations to impoverished countries.
The travel restrictions do not prohibit flights and do not apply to US citizens or lawful permanent residents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no instances of Omicron have been found in the United States yet. If the B.1.1.529 variation appears in the nation, the FDA intends to identify it immediately.
After the World Health Organization declared Omicron to be "of concern," countries throughout the world raced to halt travel from southern Africa. Unlike those issued by Biden, many of these restrictions take effect immediately.
South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi are all affected. Most non-U.S. nationals who have visited certain nations within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the United States.
Biden made the revelation while on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
"As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries," Biden said in a statement.
While on a stroll in Nantucket, the president informed reporters that his medical staff suggested that the restriction begin on Monday rather than immediately. According to a White House official, the delay was caused by the administrative steps that had to be taken before such a ban could be implemented, including dealing with transportation agencies and airlines.
Airlines for America, a trade association for the airline sector, stated that "in contact with the US government since specifics are yet unknown and there are numerous unresolved issues. In the midst of this quickly changing scenario, U.S. government decisions regarding foreign travel limits and requirements must be science-based."
According to a senior administration official, if the variant spreads, the US may add nations to the ban list.