The US is now joining the EU and other countries around the globe to restrict travel from South Africa. The US will also restrict travel from seven Southern African countries to control the new Coronavirus variant, Omicron, spreading across the country. The latest travel warnings state that only US citizens shall be allowed to travel to and from the region from Monday.
These latest travel warnings and restrictions also follow similar advisories imposed by the European Union and the United Kingdom. Canada is also planning to introduce these very similar travel restrictions and protocols in their country.
The World Health Organization, earlier this week, declared this new variant, originating from South Africa, “Omicron.” This new variant is one of the major concerns of healthcare professionals and government officials across the world.
US officials also state in their latest travel warnings that travelers from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Eswatini shall also be blocked. This move is genuinely mirroring the steps taken by the European Union. This ban will come into effect from Monday.
In his official proclamation from the White House, President Joe Biden, on suspension of entry for immigrants and nonimmigrants posing a risk of transmitting the Coronavirus disease, calls this move a precautionary step taken until more is known about the latest Covid-19 variant, Omicron.
Canada is also looking forward to shutting down its borders to travelers coming directly from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Eswatini. Foreign citizens will also be banned from Canada if they have been to any of these seven countries in the past 14 days.
South Africa first reported this new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, on November 24. Since then, this new variant has been identified in multiple other countries. The Health Ministry of South Africa is criticizing this robust preventative measure to impose new travel restrictions around the globe. The Health Ministry officials from South Africa are calling these moves “draconian,” despite the countries throughout the world being backed by the World Health Organization.
Scientists and researchers around the world still have a lot to learn about this new virus mutation. WHO states it might take a few weeks for everyone to possibly understand the impacts and implications of this new Omicron variant as experts work on determining its transmissibility.
According to WHO, in their latest travel warnings about the new Covid-19 variant, the preliminary evidence suggests that this can pose a higher risk of reinfection than other variants. According to scientists, the Omicron variant is the most heavily mutated variant yet. This means that even if you are vaccinated against Covid-19, the vaccines designed using the original strains from Wuhan, China, might not be as effective.
According to WHO, only less than 100 cases have been reported yet, with the sample sequence of this new variant. Cases are currently coming out of South Africa primarily. A few cases are detected from Hong Kong, Israel, Belgium, and Botswana.
Five new cases have also been reported from Canada as of November 30. Most of the new cases coming out of South Africa originate from some of the most populated regions, like Johannesburg, Gauteng.
The World Health Organization has warned against nations who are hastily imposing travel restrictions as per these latest travel warnings, saying that these nations should look forward to implementing a “risk-based, scientific approach.”
Travelers in and around the Cape Town airport have also responded to the new UK quarantine measures regarding this latest Covid-19 variant, most of them, including the statements of the South African Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, saying the restrictions are unjustified.
Health officials in the Netherlands have recently warned that passengers on flights emerging from South Africa to Amsterdam from Friday were likely infected with the new strain of the virus. RT-PCR tests are being carried out currently to determine whether the new variants are spreading. Passengers traveling to Manchester from Cape Town via Amsterdam reported that they had to be held at the Schiphol Airport in the Dutch capitals for hours before they could board the flights again.
While in Mumbai, India, four out of seven arriving from South Africa recently had tested negative for the strain. Testing for three is still pending. However, two people have tested positive for the disease in the northern parts of the country, though it is still not clear whether the genome sequencing matches that of the Omicron variant.
Meanwhile, in the US, sudden flight bans and travel restrictions will pose threats for families over the upcoming festive season. People are beyond devastated and are looking for a solution to this “knee-jerk reaction.”
So, only US citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States, and a few family members and other individuals who meet all the specific exceptions as per the Government, WHO, and CDC, who have been to any of the following countries are still currently allowed to enter the US borders.
The countries are - Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. So, suppose you are a US Citizen, a lawful permanent resident, a specified family member, or a legal immigrant. In that case, you can travel through the country upon showing proof of vaccination or upon conducting a negative RT-PCR test done within the last 72 hours.
Things You Need To Know
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also suggested some of the following things that US citizens must know for traveling internationally.
Note: The information was last updated by CDC on November 29.
US Citizens, US Nationals, lawful permanent residents, and legal immigrants are requested to:
- Not travel internationally until they are fully vaccinated.
- Check their destination’s Covid-19 situation and the latest travel warnings and requirements before they travel. Some countries can have their own entry and exit restrictions/requirements.
- When traveling to the US by air, they must show a negative Covid-19 test result or other necessary documentation of recovery from Covid-19 before boarding the flight. This applies to people who are not fully vaccinated.
- Wear a face mask over the nose and mouth in the indoor areas of public transport, including airplanes, Ubers, Lyfts, Car Rental Services, etc., while traveling into, in, and out of the United States and indoors in the local transportation hubs in the US, including the airports.