The United States is planning to lift the COVID-19 related travel ban on eight African countries, Biden administration officials announced late last week.
The restrictions, which were initially implemented in late November in response to the emerging COVID-19 variant Omicron, will no longer be in place as of Dec. 31, 2021, White House Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Munoz said.
“On Dec. 31, (President Joe Biden) will lift the temporary travel restrictions on Southern Africa countries. This decision was recommended by the CDC,” Munoz wrote on Twitter. “The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, (especially) boosted.”
The ban specifically impacts noncitizens who have been physically present in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the 14-day period prior to traveling to the U.S.
“Remember why I said we put the travel ban on: It’s 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 said at a press conference in late December. “But we’re past that now.”
The current restrictions do not apply to citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States and also provide for multiple exemptions.
“Our nation’s health officials have made progress in understanding Omicron; importantly, our existing vaccines are effective against severe disease with Omicron, especially if you’re boosted,” a senior administration official told CNN. “Second, with Omicron now present across the U.S. and globally, international travelers from these countries will not have a significant impact on U.S. cases.”
Other COVID-19 travel requirements
After the ban is lifted, individuals from the eight impacted African countries will be subjected to the same COVID-19 requirements as all other international travelers from around the world.
Noncitizens seeking to enter the United States through air travel are required to be “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 unless they receive an exception under policies implemented in early November.
Travelers are considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving the recommended dose(s) of vaccines that are approved/authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Additionally, all individuals entering the United States via air must show proof of a negative viral COVID-19 test within one day of their departure, regardless of their vaccination status. The new requirement applies to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, noncitizens and foreign nationals.