President Joe Biden has apparently reconsidered one of his COVID-19 policies.
According to reports, the White House plans to lift travel restrictions previously placed on several African countries amid the rampant spread of the omicron variant.
“Until we have more information”
The president announced his restrictions impacting Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe last month.
Specifically, the ban prevented travel to the U.S. from any non-citizens in these countries while requiring U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to provide a negative COVID-19 test in order to make the trip to America.
Biden defended the move at the time by describing it as a necessary effort to confine the latest variant of concern. White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci reportedly convinced the president to make the move.
“As a precautionary measure, until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries,” he said at the time.
Of course, Biden was one of the harshest critics of then-President Donald Trump based on a similar ban impacting China and other nations during the earliest weeks of the pandemic.
“We know our existing vaccines work”
In recent weeks, Biden has faced his own backlash from critics within his own party. Although an initial spike in the omicron variant was reported in Africa, subsequent evidence showed it had previously been identified in Europe — yet the president issued no such European travel ban.
Despite the criticism, the White House continued to defend the decision, at least until now.
Spokesperson Kevin Munoz announced that the ban will expire at the end of the year.
“The restrictions gave us time to understand Omicron, and we know our existing vaccines work against Omicron,” he said, noting that Americans who have received a booster shot are particularly protected from serious illness or death.
The latest news, however, does not mean that there will be no more travel restrictions related to the ongoing public health crisis. Instead, those traveling from previously banned African nations will not be subject to the same requirements as everyone else, meaning that foreigners will need to prove their vaccination status and all travelers will be required to provide a negative test.