Biden rescinds travel restrictions on African countries imposed due to omicron

President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion The Fed has a clear mandate to mitigate climate risks Biden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' MORE on Tuesday revoked the travel restrictions his administration imposed on eight countries in southern Africa over the spread of the omicron variant, saying the measures were no longer necessary.

"Since I issued that proclamation, our Nation's health officials, in collaboration with the South African scientists who originally reported the variant, have made substantial progress in understanding the Omicron variant," Biden said in a proclamation rescinding the travel restrictions. 

"Importantly, scientific experts have determined that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are protected against severe disease and hospitalization from the Omicron variant," Biden continued. "Moreover, the Omicron variant has now spread to more than 100 countries, and it is prevalent in the United States."

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

Biden administration officials defended the move, arguing it allowed more time to prepare for the spread of the omicron variant before it reached the U.S. But the variant has contributed to record-setting numbers of infections across America in recent weeks, and critics had grown frustrated that the travel restrictions remained in place.

In Tuesday's proclamation, Biden noted international travelers are asked to take a COVID-19 test and show a negative result within 48 hours of boarding a flight to the U.S., a stricter measure on such travelers the administration recently implemented.

Studies have shown the omicron variant is more contagious than previous strains of COVID-19, but it may be less dangerous for those who are vaccinated and have received a booster shot.