THE restrictions were implemented to slow the spread of the omicron variant in the United States, and they applied to South Africa – where omicron was first detected – as well as Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Most noncitizens who have been in those countries within the past 14 days have not been allowed to enter the U.S.
The news comes after other countries, including Canada, dropped similar travel restrictions President Joe Biden said earlier this week he was considering reversing the restrictions the U.S. enacted in late November shortly after lifting bans against dozens of other countries.
“We put the travel ban on just to see how much time we had before it hit here so we can begin to decide what we needed by looking at what’s happening in other countries,” Biden said during an address to the nation Tuesday. “But we’re past that now.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises against travel to the eight countries since they are considered to have “very high” Covid-19 risk.
Travelers with last-minute holiday flights this year are scrambling to find new flights as two major U.S. airlines, Delta and United, have canceled hundreds of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day flights. They cite crew shortages due to sick calls from the fast spreading omicron variant and weather in pockets of the country.
Federal officials on Thursday loosened isolation requirements for health care workers who test positive in an effort to prevent staffing shortages. New guidance from the CDC says health care workers can come back to work seven days after testing negative and don’t have symptoms. Previously, they were required to be isolated for 10 days.
Covid-19 cases are continuing to emerge on cruise ships. Among the latest outbreaks: MSC Seashore, which was scheduled to disembark passengers Thursday, sailed with 28 passengers who tested positive for Covid-19.