US President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that the country would end it's weeks long ban on travel from South Africa and Southern African countries including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Flights to and from these countries will resume on Friday at 05:01 GST on Friday the State Department said in a release.
"The travel restrictions... are no longer necessary to protect the public health" and will end on Friday, Biden said in a proclamation. He said that the US and South African scientists working jointly on understanding the Omicron variant, had produced good results. The discovery of the highly-mutated variant in South Africa had prompted a panic in countries around the world who banned travel to Southern African countries almost immediately.
Biden emphasised that, while the Covid strain has now spread to more than 100 countries including the United States, the threat level is considered lower than initially feared as those who had been fully vaccinated were less likely to contract the virus or a severe form of the disease.
South Africa was very vocal in its disappointment at the international reaction to the discovery of the variant, saying it was "punished" for identifying and warning rhe world of the variant. The World Health Organisation also criticised travel bans as ineffective in the current stage of the pandemic, stating that only mass vaccination programmes would work to cover populations.