The discovery of a new coronavirus variant in southern Africa this week led governments around the world Friday to impose travel restrictions and quarantine regulations while health officials were still evaluating the severity of the threat. The emergence of the variant, classified as “omicron” by the World Health Organization, is causing confusion for some travelers — and stranding others — as countries scramble to respond to the news.
Starting Monday, the United States will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The policy will not affect U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
What countries are ordering bans
Shortly before the United States announced it would restrict travel from eight southern African nations, European Union members voted to order a travel ban on seven countries from the region. Canada announced a similar ban, effective Friday, for foreign nationals who had traveled through seven southern African countries in the past 14 days.
Britain, France, Israel and Japan had already called for restrictions or quarantines following a Thursday announcement from South African health officials that they had linked a new variant to a cluster of cases in its Gauteng province.
The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association condemned the U.K. action to temporarily ban travelers from its region, calling the move a “knee-jerk decision” that punishes South Africa for finding the variant.