Amid the discovery of the new highly infectious “Omicron” variant of the coronavirus, the Biden administration has imposed a travel ban on eight African countries.
The restrictions apply to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi, a senior administrative official told Politico. While the order excludes American citizens or lawful permanent residents, they will need to present proof of a negative COVID test before re-entering the United States.
The prohibition on travel to the U.S. from these nations begins Monday following the holiday weekend. The decision was prompted by the World Health Organization’s emergency meeting Friday, in which the agency classified the emerging virus as a highly transmissible strain. A statement from the meeting confirmed that the variant has many mutations that could render it potentially resistant to the current vaccine as well as natural immunity provided by prior infection.
On Friday, stock indices tumbled as financial markets reacted to the shock. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped over 800 points just minutes into the market’s open. Shifting from inflation fears and the supply chain crisis, investors responded to the impending economic risk of the new COVID variant by ditching equities for “safe haven” assets as fixed income and gold.