USA to lift the omicron-linked travel ban against southern Africa

WASHINGTON (AP), The White House announced Friday that the U.S. would lift travel restrictions in eight countries of southern Africa. These travel restrictions were imposed to stop the spread COVID omicron variant.

USA to lift the omicron-linked travel ban against southern Africa

Scientists first discovered the variant in South Africa. It has since been spread to other parts of the globe. Leaders in South Africa and the World Health Organization criticized the ban on travel as unfairly damaging to local economies and ineffective.

Nearly all non-U.S. citizens were prohibited from entering South Africa, Botswana and Eswatini, Namibia or Lesotho. The restrictions will be lifted at midnight on New Year's Eve.

Kevin Munoz, White House spokesperson, stated on Twitter that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the decision. Munoz stated that temporary travel bans allowed scientists to take the time necessary to study the new variant of the virus and determine if current vaccines work in reducing its impact.

Omicron is spreading quickly throughout the U.S.A, even among those who have been vaccinated. However, a large majority of those being admitted are not vaccinated.

Munoz tweeted, "The restrictions allowed us to understand Omicron. We know our existing vaccines against Omicron work esp boosted."

Scientists are still not sure much about the omicron variant of coronavirus. However, scientists believe that omicron spreads faster than any other coronavirus strains including delta. According to the government, 73% of all new infections in the country are caused by the omicron variant. Although breakthrough infections in vaccinated individuals have become more common, they are rare and rarely cause serious illness or hospitalization.

Due to the rapid rise of omicron and more people staying indoors in winter, there has been a significant increase in infection. According to Johns Hopkins University data, the seven-day average number of U.S. COVID-19 infections rose to more than 160,000 in this week's rolling average. This is more than twice the average for late November.

Although the rapid spread of this new variant has not yet overwhelmed many domestic hospitals, it has disrupted businesses, sports leagues, and Christmas travel plans across the nation. Numerous games in the NBA and NFL have had to be rescheduled because of COVID outbreaks. The Hawaii Bowl was also cancelled after Hawaii withdrew. Three major airlines cancelled numerous domestic and international flights due to staff shortages.

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