The current administration has ended the ban on travel from eight African Countries as of December 31, 2021. The ban started in November and prevented travel to the United States by almost all non-U.S. citizens if they had recently been in any of the eight African countries covered by the travel restrictions. These countries were Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, and Malawi.
The current administration said that now that more has been learned about the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and it has spread to many more countries, the CDC has recommended that travel restrictions be lifted. The reasons they gave for this were the scientific research as well as actions taken to improve the safety of international air travel. Due to the recommendation of the CDC and the change in circumstances, the administration decided to revoke the travel ban.
One example the president gave of an attempt to make international travel safer was the requirement by the CDC that a COVID-19 test is taken within one day before traveling instead of the previous requirement of within three days prior to travel. The current administration did mention that people who are vaccinated are protected against a more serious case of the disease or hospitalization but that the requirement by the CDC further strengthened the already strict requirements for travel.
The current administration also explained that the previous restrictions gave them more time to learn about the Omicron variant and that they found out the current vaccines worked against the variant. The travel restrictions against the eight African countries were criticized by prominent scientists who complained that the African countries were being punished for identifying and promptly reporting the new variant.
The Omicron variant has spread across the United States, and cases increased throughout the holiday season. There is still not a lot known about the omicron variant other than that it is more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.
Now that travel from the eight African countries is no longer restricted, employers with employees from these countries will probably be relieved that the restrictions have been lifted. While the restrictions were in effect, many people traveling from the restricted countries would spend two weeks staying in a non-restricted country such as Mexico or the Dominican Republic and then get a negative COVID-19 test before continuing to the United States. However, this is a costly and time-consuming way to return to the United States. Now that the restrictions have been lifted, these employees will be able to travel as normal.
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