Biden: Administration ‘Considering’ Lifting African Travel Ban Amid Omicron Concerns
U.S. President Joe Biden removes his mask before speaking during a meeting with his administration's Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and private sector CEOs in the South Court Auditorium of the White House December 22, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Joe Biden told reporters that he is considering reversing the travel ban he imposed on eight southern African nations that first reported the Omicron variant.

During the brief period after Biden’s Tuesday press conference when he took questions from reporters, Fox News White House reporter Jacqui Heinrich asked Biden whether he was going to reverse the ban. “I’m considering reversing. I’m going to talk with my team in the next couple of days,” Biden responded.

“Remember, why I said we put the travel ban on is to see how much time we had before it hit here so we could begin to decide what we needed by looking at what’s happening in other countries,” Biden continued. “But we’re past that now. And so it’s something that’s being raised with me by the docs, and I’ll have an answer for that soon.”

The Biden administration originally imposed the travel restrictions on November 26. The Daily Wire reported at the time:

The travel restrictions will go into effect on Monday, but they will not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. The eight nations are South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.

Biden said that the move came after he was briefed by Dr. Antony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the president.

Fauci had suggested earlier in the day during an interview with CNN that more information was needed before making a decision on whether to ban travel because “you don’t want to say you’re going to do it until you have some scientific reason to do it.”

“That’s the reason why we’re rushing now to get that scientific data to try and make an informed decision about something like that,” Fauci added.

Early testing for the new variant showed that 90% of the cases that were reported on Wednesday came from the South African province that includes Johannesburg.

The White House’s decision followed travel bans on many of the same nations by a number of countries, including the U.K., Japan, Canada, and a number of European Union members, and several Arab and other Asian nations. The travel bans were a part of the Biden administration’s winter strategy for COVID-19. The administration also mandated international travelers coming into the U.S. to be tested within a day of their departure, regardless of their nationality or vaccination status, and extended the federal mask mandate for federally-managed travel, including airplanes, buses, and trains.

Biden made the comments after remarks on the administration’s plan to combat the Omicron variant on Tuesday. Biden warned of a coming spread of the Omicron variant over the winter and addressed his plans to combat the virus. He also took a hard line against unvaccinated Americans, scolding the unvaccinated, warning them that they face serious illness and death, and preemptively blaming them for a possible surge in COVID cases and potentially overwhelming hospitals. Biden blamed the downturn in vaccinations on “vaccine skepticism,” which “hardened” over the summer due to “misinformation” by media personalities and social media.

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