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US to lift travel restrictions imposed on eight southern African nations
United States-Virginia-Airport building/Pixabay

The BBC reported that the US is to lift travel restrictions it imposed on eight southern African nations over a new coronavirus strain.

It mentioned that the White House said the 29 November measure, affecting South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Malawi, would be lifted by New Year's Eve.

The official said the curbs were no longer necessary amid a US explosion of cases of the Omicron variant.

The variant now makes up most of all new US cases.

White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz tweeted: "The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron, esp boosted."

COVID in USA-Closed stores /Pixabay
COVID in USA-Closed stores /Pixabay

According to the BBC, the move was roundly criticised, with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres calling it "travel apartheid".

Justifying the move, the White House's chief coronavirus adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, said earlier this month it was "done at a time when we were really in the dark" about Omicron.

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He said: "We all feel very badly about the hardship that might have been put upon not only South Africa, but the other African countries."

The strain has spread faster than any previous variant in the US but has not yet resulted in a significant spike in hospitalisations.

Only one US death so far has been linked to Omicron: a Texas man in his 50s who was unvaccinated and had underlying health conditions.

Source: BBC