President Biden issued a proclamation Tuesday overturning a November travel order that barred nearly all non-U.S. citizens who had recently been in eight southern African countries from entering the U.S.
WHITE HOUSE LIFTING OMICRON TRAVEL BAN ON SOUTHERN AFRICAN COUNTRIES AMID SPREAD IN US
The previous proclamation from Biden that imposed travel restrictions on South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe will be lifted effective Dec. 31.
Having learned more about the omicron variant of COVID-19 over the past few weeks as it has spread to more than 100 countries, Biden said the CDC now recommends lifting the travel restrictions, citing scientific research and measures taken to make international air travel safer.
“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,” Biden said in the new proclamation. “The travel restrictions imposed by that proclamation are no longer necessary to protect the public health.”
For example, the president highlighted the agency’s move to shorten the timeline for required predeparture COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated travelers from no more than three days prior to travel to no more than one day.
While Biden said experts had determined that those who are vaccinated are protected against severe disease and hospitalization from omicron, he added that the CDC’s requirement strengthened the administration’s “already stringent travel protocols.”
NEW TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS TAKE EFFECT, REQUIRING COVID TESTING FOR VACCINATED TRAVELERS ENTERING U.S.
“The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against omicron, esp boosted,” White House spokesman Kevin Munoz tweeted last week.
This move comes as the variant continues to spread across the U.S. and cases have spiked amidst the holiday season.
The seven-day average for U.S. COVID-19 cases climbed to more than 260,000 this week, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
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While much about omicron remains unknown, scientists say the variant is more transmissible than other COVID-19 strains.
The rise of omicron has canceled dozens of domestic and international flights, shut down events and roiled businesses around the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.