After facing pushback from several African leaders, President Joe Biden says he’s contemplating a walk back on the travel ban, imposed on eight South African countries.
The U.S. levied travel restrictions on South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe last month after the omicron variant was first identified.
Biden said he’s “considering reversing” it and is “going to talk with my team in the next couple of days.”
“Look, remember why I said we put the travel ban on. It’s 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 said at a press conference. “But we’re past that now […] so it’s something that is being raised with me by the [doctors], and I’ll have an answer for that soon.”
Earlier this month, South Africa’s president spoke out against the COVID-19 related travel bans imposed on his country COVID-19.
“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” Cyril Ramaphosa said during a state visit to Nigeria. “As we meet today, we have noted the announcements by several countries to institute travel restrictions on South Africa and other countries in our region as a result of the discovery by our scientists of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also rebuked the ban.
“We have the instruments to have safe travel. Let’s use those instruments to avoid this kind of, allow me to say, travel apartheid, which I think is unacceptable,” Guterres told reporters in New York.