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United States To Impose Travel Restrictions Over New COVID-19 Variant

The White House said Friday the U.S. will impose travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries in the region beginning Monday due to a new COVID-19 variant.

A World Health Organization panel named the variant “omicron” and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the delta variant, the world’s most prevalent. The panel said early evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection.

In response, the United States joined the European Union and several other countries in instituting travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa.

The U.S. announced restrictions on visitors from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi, hours after governments took similar steps.

“As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “These new restrictions will take effect on November 29. As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises.”

The President also used the opportunity to urge vaccinated Americans to get booster shots and urge unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated.

“The best way to strengthen your protection is to get a booster shot, as soon as you are eligible,” Biden said.”They are safe, free, and convenient. Get your booster shot now, so you can have this additional protection during the holiday season.”

Biden called on nations gathering next week for the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting to meet the U.S. challenge to waive intellectual property protections for COVID vaccines, so that vaccines can be manufactured globally.

“The news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations,” Biden continued. “The United States has already donated more vaccines to other countries than every other country combined. It is time for other countries to match America’s speed and generosity.”

According to leading epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, the variant has not been detected in the United States. However, he told CNN that the variant “seems to be spreading at a reasonably rapid rate.” And although it may be more transmissible and resistant to vaccines than other variants, “we don’t know that for sure right now.”

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