The U.S. will lift travel restrictions to eight southern African countries on New Year’s Eve, the White House announced Friday.
The restrictions, imposed last month, were meant to blunt the spread of the COVID omicron variant.
The Nov. 29 ban barred nearly all non-U.S. citizens who had recently been in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
White House spokesman Kevin Munoz said on Twitter that the decision was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Munoz said the temporary travel bans bought scientists necessary time to study the new virus variant and conclude that the current vaccinations are effective in blunting its impact.
"POTUS will lift the temporary travel restrictions on Southern Africa countries effective Dec. 31," Munoz tweeted.
“The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted,” Munoz further wrote.
Omicron is now spreading rapidly throughout the U.S., including among the vaccinated, but a huge majority of those being hospitalized are unvaccinated.
The United States had only lifted travel restrictions on South Africa on Nov. 8 put in place since late January to address COVID-19 concerns.
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