President Joe Biden on Tuesday revoked travel restrictions placed on eight countries initially aimed at stopping the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant within the United States.
Biden originally issued Proclamation 10315 — which barred all non-U.S. citizens from entering the country until 14 days after leaving Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe — in late November "to enable the United States to implement appropriate mitigation measures while new information emerged about the variant."
"Having learned more about the Omicron variant in the past several weeks, the CDC now recommends lifting the travel restrictions imposed in Proclamation 10315. 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," Biden wrote Tuesday. "Importantly, scientific experts have determined that people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are protected against severe disease and hospitalization from the Omicron variant. Moreover, the Omicron variant has now spread to more than 100 countries, and it is prevalent in the United States."
The president argued his coronavirus strategy, which recently installed stricter testing and vaccination requirements for boarding international flights to the U.S., has "made international travel to the United States from all countries safer."
"In light of these changed circumstances, and based on the recommendation of the CDC, I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to revoke Proclamation 10315," he concluded. "The travel restrictions imposed by that proclamation are no longer necessary to protect the public health."
The travel restrictions will stay in place until 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2021.
The administration has faced increased scrutiny over the travel restrictions following the rise of omicron within the country.
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"This is not a permanent ban at all. It is temporary," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing before Christmas. "We are continuing to assess day to day the decision to lift that ban, but, yes, that is our intention to lift the ban."