The Biden Administration announced on Friday that it will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other African countries to try to contain a new variant of the coronavirus.
The administration made the decision after health officials in the United States consulted with South African scientists on Friday morning, and after the World Health Organization later said the new variant was “of concern” and labeled it Omicron.
Starting on Monday, the U.S. will prohibit travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi from coming to the United States.
The ban will not include American citizens or lawful permanent residents, but travelers will have to show a negative test before entering the U.S.
Scientists are unclear how effective vaccines will be against Omicron, with only several dozen cases having been fully identified so far in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Belgium, and Israel.
The new variant has largely been detected among young people, the cohort that also has the lowest vaccination rate in South Africa, where only a quarter of those between 18 and 34 are vaccinated.