US to ban travel from eight African nations due to new COVID-19 omicron variant
BRUSSELS (AP) — The White House said Friday the U.S. will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region beginning Monday due to a new COVID-19 variant.
The world is confronting a new coronavirus variant, and officials have named it “omicron.” A World Health Organization panel has classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern.
Its discovery in southern Africa sent a chill through much of the world as nations raced to halt air travel, markets fell sharply and scientists held emergency meetings.
The overall risks of omicron are not yet known, but the United States, the 27-nation European Union and other countries including Canada quickly announced restrictions on travel from southern Africa and stepped up other precautions.
The White House did not give details on the new travel ban except to say the restrictions will not apply to returning U.S. citizens or permanent residents, who will continue to be required to test negative before their travel.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed and strongly discouraged any travel bans on countries that reported the new variant. It said past experience shows that such travel bans have “not yielded a meaningful outcome.”
Yet the U.S. announced restrictions on visitors from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi, hours after governments took similar steps.