US To Lift Omicron-related Travel Restrictions On 8 Southern African Countries

The U.S. Government has decided to lift restrictions on travel from 8 southern African countries, imposed a month ago in the wake of the emergence of Omicron variant in that region.

As per Proclamation 10315 issued by President Joe Biden on November 26, non-U.S. citizens from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Malawi were barred from entering the United States if they had been in any of these countries in the past 14 days.

Biden said at that time that he took that action to slow the spread of the Omicron variant into the United States and to implement appropriate mitigation measures while new information emerged about the variant.

On Tuesday, Biden issued another proclamation saying that in light of the changed circumstances, and based on the recommendation of the CDC, he is revoking Proclamation 10315. He added that the travel restrictions imposed by that proclamation are no longer necessary to protect the public health, and the unrestricted entry of persons described in Proclamation 10315 into the United States is no longer detrimental to the interests of the country.

The travel restrictions from 8 southern African countries will be lifted on December 31.

Biden is easing travel restrictions even as Covid cases are surging in the U.S. significantly, driven by the more easily transmitted Omicron variant.

The Omicron variant replaced Delta as the predominant circulating strain.

On Monday, the United States reported the highest case number recorded in a single day since the pandemic broke out in the country.

The U.S. Government imposed new restrictions on travel from 8 southern African countries after Omicron was first reported in Botswana on November 11 and in South Africa three days later. Omicron infection, the fifth of the SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, has been reported in 108 countries so far.

Last week, Canada had lifted travel restrictions imposed on travelers from 10 African countries.

The U.S. State Department said that Consular sections in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe will resume routine nonimmigrant and immigrant visa services. “Applicants whose cases were refused solely due to their presence in a country covered by a regional COVID proclamation should contact the embassy or consulate where they made the application to request reconsideration,” it said in a press release.

The State Department also said that global vaccination requirement for all adult foreign national travelers remains in effect. All non-immigrant, non-citizen air travelers to the United States are required to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding a U.S.-bound airplane.

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