Murthy says travel restrictions are 'temporary measures'

Surgeon General Vivek MurthyVivek MurthySunday shows - Voting rights legislation dominates Murthy: SCOTUS vaccine mandate block is a 'setback for public health' Second gentleman Emhoff acts as public link to White House MORE defended the Biden administration’s travel restrictions on eight southern African nations, saying during a Sunday appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that they are “temporary measures.”

Moderator Margaret Brennan pressed Murthy on why the Biden administration decided to single out a handful of countries in southern African in its travel restrictions amid concerns of the omicron variant, noting that scientists in South Africa have called the move discriminatory.

“Well, again, Margaret, if you look at this, we're in a very different situation than we were in the beginning of the pandemic when travel restrictions were put in place. And one of the big differences, Margaret, is that we have travel measures, safety measures that actually are helping reduce the risk, and those include guaranteeing that people who get on international flights are vaccinated and pretravel testing,” the U.S. surgeon general responded.

“Now we use the time to actually strengthen those travel measures. The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] announced that it's going to be shortening that window to 24 hours. We use that time to vaccinate millions of more Americans,” he continued. “The bottom line is these are meant to be temporary measures. Nobody wants them to be on for any longer than they need to be. And that's why we are continuously reevaluating them, so that we can get them off as soon as it's appropriate.”

On Monday, the U.S. began imposing travel restrictions on eight southern African nations, including South Africa, after the omicron variant was first detected in that country.

Officials and scientists criticized the move, saying that it could be seen as punishing South Africa for being forthcoming about its COVID-19 research. 

President BidenJoe BidenCarville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Sullivan: 'It's too soon to tell' if Texas synagogue hostage situation part of broader extremist threat MORE’s chief medical adviser, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciPublic health expert: Biden administration needs to have agencies on the 'same page' about COVID Trump slams Biden, voices unsubstantiated election fraud claims at first rally of 2022 DeSantis says he disagreed with Trump's decision to shut down economy at start of pandemic MORE, who noted during a CNN town hall last week that there was “some merit” to some of the criticisms that travel restrictions might dissuade countries from being forthcoming about reporting variants in the future, said it was a “difficult choice.”

“We felt — or at least I felt and I know several other members of the team felt — really badly about that because the South Africans have been extremely transparent and collegial in getting information to us,” Fauci told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper during the CNN town hall.

“It was a very difficult choice to make because we had no idea what's going on when you saw what was coming out,” he added. “So we felt it was better to be safe than sorry.”