US to restrict travel from South Africa as new coronavirus variant emerges

President Joe Biden announced the US will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday as a new coronavirus variant emerges.

The Biden administration will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi, CNN reported. The action is based on advice from top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The decision comes as the federal government tries to learn more about the newly emerged variant called Omicron. Biden said he was briefed on the new variant in southern Africa Friday (11/26/21).

Officials said halting travel is out of an abundance of caution given the World Health Organization now identifies this as a variant of concern.

According to CNN, South Africa’s health minister announced Thursday the discovery of the variant, which appears to be spreading rapidly in parts of the country.

Currently, “there’s no indication” that the new variant is in the United States right now – and US scientists are working closely with colleagues in South Africa to learn more about the emerging variant, Fauci told CNN’s Brianna Keilar before the travel restrictions were announced Friday.

Several other countries — including the United Kingdom — have banned flights from South Africa and surrounding African countries in response to the new variant.

The travel restrictions do not apply to American citizens and lawful permanent residents. As with all international travelers, they must still test negative prior to travel.