The U.S. will impose a travel ban on all foreigners who have been to seven countries in southern Africa in the last 14 days as the new Omicron variant raises alarms worldwide.
The measure, which takes effect from Monday, Nov. 29, applies to travelers who have set so much as a foot in either South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, and Eswatini in the 14 days, the U.S. president announced Friday.
“As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries,” the U.S. president said in a statement.
However, there was no mention of how long the restrictions will last. The President stated that future steps will be “guided by what science and my medical team advise.”
Along with the U.S. Canada, and a fast-growing number of European countries have already closed their skies to Southern African flights.
Most countries imposing bans did it as soon as the new highly contagious variant was announced on Thursday night.
The U.S., however, has opted to delay reintroducing travel restrictions until Monday.
According to a White House official, the delay is due to the administrative steps that must be completed before it can be implemented. These include working with transportation authorities and airlines.
United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are the two American airlines serving South Africa. Both airlines currently fly to Johannesburg, South Africa’s major city.
United had planned to resume flights to Cape Town in December but in the light of the new developments, it will hardly be possible.
No other American airlines are expected to be affected by the travel ban.
Nationals and resident permit holders are permitted to return to the U.S. However, neither airline has yet announced repatriation flights for US citizens.
Qatar Airways and Emirates, two major airlines that built a reputation for operating repatriation flights during the onset of the pandemic, have both announced they will not fly passengers from certain southern African countries.