WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. will lift travel restrictions on eight southern African countries that it imposed to try to blunt the spread of the COVID omicron variant.
The White House says the temporary travel bans bought scientists necessary time to study the new virus variant first discovered in South Africa.
The World Health Organization and leaders in southern Africa criticized the travel ban as ineffective.
The ban, which went into place in late November, had barred entry to all non-U.S. citizens who had been in South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The White House's announcement of the ban came hours after the World Health Organization declared the newly-discovered omicron strain a "variant of concern." The administration said it would be lifted on New Year's Eve.