As initial data suggests the omicron variant may not be as lethal as initially feared, the U.S. is considering loosening its ban against foreign travel from South Africa and several other nations in southern Africa.
U.S. May Loosen Africa Travel Ban
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Nation, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden, suggested initials signs indicate the omicron variant is not as severe as delta, though it is too early to make conclusive determinations:
“Thus far – though it’s too early to really make any definitive statements about it – it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it, but we’ve really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or really doesn’t cause any severe illness comparable to delta.
“But thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity. But again we’ve got to hold judgement until we get more experienced.”
Addressing the travel ban impacting foreign nationals who have recently visited one or more of seven countries in southern Africa, Fauci added:
“When the ban was put on, it was put to give us time to figure out just what is going on. Now as you mentioned, as we are getting more and more information about cases in our own country and worldwide, we’re looking at that very carefully on a daily basis.”
Fauci feels “badly” over the hardship placed on African nations and as a result, the U.S. is reevaluating its latest travel restrictions
“We all feel very badly about the hardship that might have put upon not only South Africa but the other African countries. For that reason, in real time – literally on a daily basis -we are reevaluating that policy.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres derided the travel bans last week, calling it “deeply unfair” to isolate a single region and labeling the ban “travel apartheid.”
With information slowly emerging that the omicron variant may not be as lethal as initially feared, the U.S. is considering loosening its harsh travel restrictions impacting nine nations.
My personal guess, however, is that the travel restrictions will remain in place as hospitalization rates continue to climb in the Gauteng province of South Africa. Hospitalizations have risen four-fold over the last two weeks to all-time highs and new case numbers in South Africa are again approaching the worst of the pandemic.