US banning travel from South Africa

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To combat the new South African strain of COVID-19, President Biden is banning non-US citizens from entering the country if they have recently been in South Africa. The ban began on Saturday, with the aim of preventing the highly transmissible strain from spreading to the United States.

According to Reuters, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, said, “We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa,” claiming that the measures are designed “to protect Americans and also to reduce the risk of these variants spreading and worsening the current pandemic.”

The South African variant, also known as the 501Y.V2 variant, is considered 50 percent more contagious and has already spread to 20 countries. So far, it has not been found in the US.

To further strengthen COVID-19 precautions, the CDC is signing an order today requiring masks on all airplanes, ferries, trains, buses, taxis, and in all ride-share vehicles. Another CDC rule takes effect tomorrow, requiring all incoming passengers on flights to the US to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of boarding.

Although Trump had tried to lift travel restrictions on Brazil, the UK, Ireland, and EU countries before leaving office, Biden quickly reversed that decision. “With the pandemic worsening and these more contagious variants emerging,” said Schuchat, “it’s not the time to lift restrictions on international travel.”