(Fwrd Axis) — The United States will restrict travel to and from South Africa and seven other countries, effective on Monday — a rapid response to the newly named “Omicron” variant of Covid-19, President Joe Biden announced on Friday.
A senior administration official told FWRD AXIS News that the move was done “out of an abundance of caution”. The White House said Friday that Biden came to decision after recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and his chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“As we move forward,” Biden said in a statement, “we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises.”
The travel restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Other countries on the list include Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
“We don’t know a lot about the variant except it is a great concern, seems to spread rapidly,” the president told reporters in Nantucket, Mass., where he and his family are spending Thanksgiving weekend.
Omicron has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “variant of concern,” which as caused severe spikes in cases in South Africa amid fears over its high number of mutations, which make it potentially more transmissible.
Biden spoke about the importance of vaccines and booster shots, urging fully vaccinated Americans to receive their boosters as soon as they’re eligible.
“Every American that has not been vaccinated, should be responsible and be vaccinated from age five years and up, number one,” he said. “Number two, everyone eligible for the booster shot, should get the booster shot immediately upon being eligible. That is a minimum that everyone should be doing.”
As a result of the fear over the new variant, U.S. stocks fell on Friday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing its worst day of the year.
“We don’t know very much about this yet,” Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist and the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead said. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. The concern is that when you have so many mutations it can have an impact on how the virus behaves.”