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Biden will lift travel restrictions on southern African countries

Stefano Agosto, of Culver City, meets his sister Caterina Agosto, of Italy, as she exits customs and baggage claim at Tom Bradley International Terminal (Terminal B) at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. Big jump in L.A. County COVID-19 Omicron variant cases heightens alarm about the unvaccinated.

Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

  • The Biden administration plans to lift travel restrictions from southern African countries on December 31.
  • All international travelers must still test negative within a day of departure.
  • The Omicron coronavirus variant, first detected in South Africa, has swept through the US.

President Joe Biden will lift the travel restrictions his administration imposed on countries in southern Africa on December 31, the White House announced Friday.

In late November, Biden set restrictions on travel from eight countries — South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini, Malawi, and Namibia — over fears of the Omicron coronavirus variant. The variant was first detected in South Africa.

The Omicron variant has since swept through the US, accounting for more than 73% of coronavirus cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Biden will lift the restrictions effective on December 31 at 12:01 a.m. The policy was first announced through a tweet from White House spokesman Kevin Munoz.

“The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted,” Munoz said on Twitter.

The travel restrictions never affected US citizens or permanent residents, who only had to test negative for the virus before returning to the US.

Since December 6, CDC policy required all international travelers must test negative within a day of departure regardless of their vaccination status. Travelers are also required to wear masks on planes and in airports.


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