Travel Restricted From 8 Countries To U.S. Over New Variant Concerns

As the world woke up to headlines regarding a new COVID variant, President Biden announced new air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries until more information becomes available.

On Friday, the World Health Organization gave the new variant of the virus (B.1.1.529) the name Omicron and called it a “variant of concern,” its most serious category.

The seven other nations are Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique & Malawi.

More from the New York Times:

So far, only a few dozen cases of the new variant have been identified in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

There is no proof yet that the variant is more contagious or lethal, or could diminish the protective power of vaccines, but uncertainty on those questions was one factor in the speed of countries’ move toward restrictions.

Stocks tumbled around the world on Friday as the news of the variant spooked markets and terrified many Europeans already exhausted by news of breakthrough infections, surging cases and rallies by vaccine skeptics.

Countries in Europe, once again the epicenter of the pandemic, were among the first to announce travel bans. Britain announced its restrictions on Thursday and put them into force on Friday.

The broad S&P 500 Index dropped 106 points, its worst day since February.

The new restrictions do not apply to American citizens and lawful permanent residents. Those who fall into those categories must still test negative before traveling.