NANTUCKET, Mass. — The United States announced that it would restrict travel from eight southern African countries beginning Monday as the Biden administration responded to reports of a new COVID-19 variant.
Travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be prohibited from entering the United States, The New York Times reported. The move was made over fears that the new variant, called omicron, could spread to the United States.
The travel ban will not apply to American citizens or lawful permanent residents, officials said. However, U.S. citizens must show a negative coronavirus test before coming to the United States, according to the Times.
The policy was put into effect out of “an abundance of caution in light of a new coronavirus variant circulating in Southern Africa,” a senior Biden administration official told The Washington Post.
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President Joe Biden was briefed by his chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, and others Friday on the variant, according to the newspaper. Biden said in a statement that the restrictions were “a precautionary measure until we have more information.”
“If you have not gotten vaccinated, or have not taken your children to get vaccinated, now is the time,” Biden said.
On Saturday, two cases of omicron were confirmed in the United Kingdom, according to Sajid Javid, the country’s health secretary. Both cases were linked, and both travelers were returning to the country from South Africa.
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Omicron has also been identified in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel, according to the BBC.
Dutch authorities announced that 61 people from two flights that entered the Netherlands from South Africa had tested positive for COVID-19. So far, none of those cases have been confirmed as the omicron variant.
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