U.S. Lifts Travel Restrictions on Southern African Countries

The restrictions were lifted Dec. 31.

The White House lifted travel restrictions on several southern African countries in time a month after it was first implemented following the emergence of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

First put in place on Nov. 29, the ban prohibited the entry of non-U.S. citizens from eight different countries including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi. At the time, the U.S. had been joined by nations around the world in implementing stricter travel measures against the African countries.

"Having learned more about the omicron variant in the past several weeks, the CDC now recommends lifting the travel restrictions imposed in Proclamation 10315," President Joe Biden wrote in a proclamation last week. "Since I issued that proclamation, our Nation's health officials, in collaboration with the South African scientists who originally reported the variant, have made substantial progress in understanding the omicron variant. Importantly, scientific experts have determined that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are protected against severe disease and hospitalization from the omicron variant."

Passengers inside the departures terminal at Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa
Dwayne Senior/Getty Images

"The travel restrictions imposed by that proclamation are no longer necessary to protect the public health," Biden added.

The omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24 and has since spread to more than 100 countries. Omicron has quickly become the dominant variant in the U.S., accounting for at least 58.6% of all new cases and as much as 88% of cases in some parts of the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While foreign nationals are allowed to enter the U.S., they are required to be vaccinated. All international travelers, including citizens returning from abroad, are also now required to get tested within one day of boarding a flight.

Travel to several countries around the world is still possible, but the U.S. Department of State has encouraged Americans going abroad to make "contingency plans" in case they are forced to remain in another country longer than they intended.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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