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US ban on travel from eight African countries to come into effect


US ban on travel from eight African countries to come into effect

Phill Magakoe AFP via Getty Images
Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images

Effective today the US will ban travel from eight African countries to the US.

The Biden administration’s decision—imposed against South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi—comes in light of discovery of a new variant of COVID-19, named “Omicron” by the WHO.

Omicron was discovered by South African scientists last week during a surge of infections and is reported to account for 90% of new COVID-19 cases in South Africa. The WHO has classified Omicron as a “highly transmissible virus of concern”—as it previously classified the Delta variant—and has stated that early evidence suggests that the strain poses an increased risk of reinfection.

The US response has not been atypical. The EU has similarly imposed a temporary ban on air travel from southern Africa. Expect countries to respond to Omicron swiftly, especially as global investors panic. Stocks have tumbled in Asia, Europe, and the US since the strain’s discovery. Should Omicron be contained in Africa, restrictions are likely to be limited to travel bans, but if Omicron jumps continents and proves to be as infectious as the Delta variant, measures will likely go further—mandatory mask wearing and internal movement restrictions is highly probable.

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