Africa: Coronavirus – US to Lift Travel Restrictions Against Southern African Countries

A travel ban instituted after the discovery of the omicron coronavirus variant will be lifted on New Year’s Eve.

The United States will lift travel restrictions aimed at eight southern African countries on New Year’s Eve, it announced on Friday.

The White House said curbs were no longer necessary and that measures affecting South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Malawi will be lifted.

The country instituted the travel restrictions in late November after the omicron variant of the coronavirus was detected by South African scientists.

“The restrictions gave us time to understand omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against omicron, esp boosted,” a White House spokesman wrote on Twitter.

The restrictions haven’t prevented omicron from rapidly becoming the dominant strain in the US.

Southern Africa still the target of ‘inefficient’ restrictions

Omicron has spread around the globe and is now the dominant variant in more than 50 countries.

The vast majority of travel bans that were instituted after its discovery in November were still aimed at southern African countries.

Measures included banning direct flights to and from the countries and costly quarantines.

The United Kingdom, which was the first to “red-list” people traveling from the countries, lifted restrictions last week.

On Tuesday the European Union’s commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders, told Reuters the restrictions are “inefficient,” but many EU nations are reluctant to drop them.

The travel restrictions are costing African countries dearly

On the same day, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa wrote an open letter to the EU delegation in South Africa saying the country’s tourism sector lost €51 million ($58 million) in the first few days after the ban because of canceled international bookings.

“We estimate this could increase to €1.4 billion if the bans continue, resulting in 205 000 fewer annual jobs supported by the tourism industry,” Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, the chief executive officer of TBCSA wrote.

lo/aw (AP, Reuters)

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