The Biden administration on Friday imposed a travel ban on South Africa and seven other nations over the outbreak of the new COVID variant dubbed as "Omicron."

Officials confirmed the administration's move, adding that the seven other countries included in the travel ban are Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi, Eswatini, and Mozambique, CNBC reported.

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Biden Admin's Travel Restriction to South Africa, Other Nations, Effective on Monday

The said travel restriction will take effect on Monday. However, the said restriction will not affect U.S. citizens or any lawful citizens of the United States.

According to President Joe Biden, the move came after the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the president, Dr. Anthony Fauci, briefed him about the new variant, The Daily Wire reported.

"I've decided we're going to be cautious... We don't know a lot about the variant except it is a great concern, seems to spread rapidly," President Biden said.

In a statement announcing the travel ban. President Biden also urged the Americans who were fully vaccinated to get their booster shots. The Chief executive also encouraged parents to "take advantage" of the new COVID vaccine doses offered to children aged 5-11 years old.

The Biden administration's move to ban travel from South Africa and seven other nation, marks the U.S. joining a string of countries that also restricted travels in the region over their concern about the new coronavirus variant.

On Thursday, the United Kingdom announced that they will temporarily suspend flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Eswatini.

European Union countries such as Austria, France, Italy, Netherlands, and Malta, also announced all travelers who entered Lesotho, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, and Eswatini. Meanwhile, Switzerland banned all direct flights from the said nations as well.

The Health Minister of Canada confirmed that they are also taking the same step as the U.S. in response to the new variant.

COVID Variant 'Omicron' Becomes 'New Variant of Concern'

The travel restrictions announced by the Biden administration came as the World Health Organization (WHO) also announced on Friday that the said COVID variant first detected in Southern Africa ss a variant of concern.

The organization also explained that preliminary evidence showed "an increased risk of reinfection" with the variant, as it added the new discovery to the list of variants of concern, giving it the name "Omicron."

Early testing for "Omicron" showed that 90 percent of the cases that were reported on Wednesday came from the South African province that includes Johannesburg.

As Experts from the WHO met on Friday to assess the new variant, Omicron prompted concerns on how easily it will spread, as the variant reportedly has a high number of mutations in the virus' spike protein, USA Today reported.

Within days of its identification, the government of Belgium, Hong Kong, and Israel reported that they have cases of COVID with the "Omicron" variant.

"So, at best, you can possibly slow down the spread around the world but trying to contain the virus to [Southern Africa] right now is like trying to contain the wind," Epidemiologist from the University of Minnesota, Dr. Michael Osterholm, said.

However, Osterholm noted that it is still too soon to say what the impact of "Omicron" might be.

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This article is owned by Latin Post.

Written By: Joshua Summers

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