- US President Joe Biden has announced that the travel ban on South Africa will be lifted on New Year's Eve
- The ban affected the southern African region, with travel to countries, including Botswana and Zimbabwe also blocked
- South Africa notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of the Omicron variant shortly after it was first discovered
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WASHINGTON - The travel ban imposed on South Africa and other southern African countries is set to be lifted this week after United States (US) President Joe Biden made a formal announcement on Monday.
The ban was imposed due to fears surrounding the new Omicron Covid-19 variant, the threat of which officials in the country said is understood better, according to a statement released by the White House on Friday.
With the variant now widespread across the globe, travellers from the region will not have a wholly impact on the cases in the US, BusinessTech reported. According to News24, Biden's proclamation will bring the decision to end the ban into effect at midnight on Friday, 31 December.
Biden said the ban was being lifted on the suggestion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noting that US and South African researchers have made substantial progress in understanding the new Covid-19 variant.
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"While more than 100 countries, including the United States, have been affected as the strain has spread, the threat level is considered lower than initially feared. Scientific experts have found that vaccinated people are protected against severe disease," said Biden.
YEN.com.gh previously reported that travel from southern African countries, including Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe was blocked by countries around the world after the variant was detected in South Africa.
South Africa notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of the Omicron variant on 24 November. WHO and the United Nations (UN) lashed out against the travel bans, with South African officials going as far as to say the country was being punished for identifying the strain and being transparent.
US praises SA after announcing Omicron variant
In related news, YEN.com.gh previously reported that the US congratulated South Africa for sharing the discovery of the new Omicron variant. This was also used as an opportunity to remind the world of how China handled the pandemic in its early stages.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told international relations and cooperation minister Naledi Pandor that the country's swift response in revealing the discovery should be the process going forward.
China has faced harsh criticism from both former president Donald Trump and Biden. Earlier this year, the US released a report that revealed that the origin of the virus could not be confirmed.
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