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US to restrict travel from 8 African countries over virulent omicron variant of COVID-19

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 11/26/2021 Dave Goldiner, New York Daily News
U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House on Oct. 26, 2021, in Washington, D.C.. © Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House on Oct. 26, 2021, in Washington, D.C..

President Joe Biden barred flights from South Africa and seven other African countries starting Monday in a bid to prevent the spread of the virulent new COVID variant dubbed omicron by the World Health Organization.

The other nations include Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The White House guidance did not give details 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 news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations, Biden said in a statement. “The United States has already donated more vaccines to other countries than every other country combined. It is time for other countries to match America’s speed and generosity.”


Video: U.S. to curb travel from eight southern African countries over new COVID-19 variant (Reuters)

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The edict comes after Britain led a parade of Western allies in banning flights from South Africa over Omicron, which has likely already spread to neighboring countries in the region.

The U.S. only this month scrapped its patchwork of COVID travel rules that targeted specific countries in favor of a simple requirement that travelers must be fully vaccinated.

The only direct air links to southern Africa from the U.S. are the 10 weekly direct flights to Johannesburg, including a United Airlines daily flight from Newark Liberty International Airport.

United had planned to add a three-times-a-week flight from Newark to Cape Town starting Dec. 15, mostly because tourism had started to rebound as the pandemic was easing until the new variant hit.

Thousands of immigrants from southern Africa in the U.S. and Europe traditionally journey every year back to their homelands for Christmas, where most offices and factories close for two weeks or more. Last year’s festive season was marred by a previous variant that ravaged South Africa but did not spread widely globally.

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