Biden considering reversing African travel ban ‘soon’

Associated Press/Patrick Semansky

President Biden said Tuesday he is considering reversing the travel ban on southern African countries that his administration imposed in late November amid rising concerns about the omicron coronavirus variant.

“I’m considering reversing. I’m going to talk with my team in the next couple of days,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

“Remember why I said we put the travel ban on is to see how much time we had before it hit here so we could begin to decide what we needed by looking at what’s happening in other countries,” Biden continued. “But we’re past that now. And so it’s something that’s being raised with me by the docs, and I’ll have an answer for that soon.”

The U.S. restricted travel from eight African countries — Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe — at the end of November after scientists in southern Africa first discovered the omicron variant.

The move by the U.S. followed similar decisions by European nations, but the travel restrictions have been met with fierce criticism from the international community as well as public health experts, who note that the ban is ineffective now that the variant is circulating in the U.S. and other nations.

By the time the U.S. implemented its ban, the omicron variant had been detected in Europe.

Omicron became the dominant strain in the U.S. this week, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing it compromises 73 percent of cases.

The White House has defended the ban as a necessary public health step, but officials have said it would be reevaluated as time goes on.

Tags COVID-19 Joe Biden omicron

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