The Biden administration is considering easing travel restrictions to Southern African countries as U.S. infection rates of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus rise, top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday.
“We likely are going to pull back on that pretty soon because we have enough infection in our own country,” Fauci said at the National Press Club.
“We’re letting in people from other countries that have as much or more infection than the Southern African countries. So likely we are going to look at that very carefully to see if we can pull back.”
The United States on November 29 barred nearly all foreign nationals if they had been in one of eight southern African countries including South Africa within the last 14 days.
It was not clear when the restrictions might be lifted but travel industry officials said it could happen as soon as this week. The White House did not immediately comment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week started distributing free COVID-19 home test kits to international travelers at several airports. The CDC encourages – but does not mandate – international air travelers to get a new COVID-19 test upon arriving in the United States.
New rules took effect on December 6 requiring nearly all people flying to the United States to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel.
The CDC last month ordered airlines to disclose passenger names and other information about those who have recently been in the eight southern African countries.