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Biden administration to lift travel restrictions on southern African countries

By Jonna Lorenz
1/5
Biden administration to lift travel restrictions on southern African countries
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine, in Cape Town, South Africa on February 17. The Biden administration said Friday it would lift travel restrictions on southern African countries starting Dec. 31. File Photo by Gianluigi Guercia/EPA-EFE

Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The Biden administration announced Friday it will lift travel restrictions on Dec. 31 on eight southern African countries.

President Joe Biden imposed the restrictions on Nov. 29 after the World Health Organization identified the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus as a variant of concern.

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White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz said the decision to lift the restrictions was recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

The restrictions prevented most foreign travelers from entering the United States from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, where the Omicron variant was thought to have originated.

The administration faced criticism for the travel restrictions as the variant quickly spread worldwide, including in the United States.

Travelers from the eight affected countries will be subject to standard travel protocols, including that foreign travelers be fully vaccinated and all travelers get a negative COVID-19 test before departing for the United States, CNN reported.

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