US officially lifts travel ban on 8 African countries effective December 31

President Joe Biden has signed a new proclamation to revoke the travel ban imposed on travellers from eight southern African countries due to the Omicron variant.
President Joe Biden has rescinded the travel ban imposed on travellers from eight southern African countries due to the new Omicron variant of COVID-19. The new proclamation will go into effect on December 31. Source: Drew Angerer / Getty Images via AFP

If you’re from southern Africa and are currently enrolled in US universities, you can now rest easy. President Joe Biden has officially rescinded the travel ban that was previously issued due to an outbreak of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, which is now spreading rapidly in the US. The new proclamation will go into effect at 12.01 am Eastern Time on Dec. 31, 2o21.

In a statement released by the White House on December 28, President Biden signed a proclamation revoking Proclamation 10315 issued on November 26, which suspended entry for non-citizens who were present in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa 14 days preceding their arrival in the US. 

Under the advice of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), President Biden enforced the travel ban in November on the same day the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified Omicron as a “variant of concern.” Since the announcement, the US has recorded a staggering number of new cases, with current figures reaching 267,000 over a seven-day period as of December 28, according to the New York Times.

Despite the case surge, the White House has decided that lifting the travel ban is the best course of action. 

“Having learned more about the Omicron variant in the past several weeks, the CDC now recommends lifting the travel restrictions imposed in Proclamation 10315,” says President Biden in the statement. “Since I issued that proclamation, our nation’s health officials, in collaboration with the South African scientists who originally reported the variant, have made substantial progress in understanding the Omicron variant.”

US travel ban lift: Latest updates for international students

The US has lifted the travel ban on eight African countries due to Omicron, and ensures that no lockdowns will be enforced this winter.

All travellers entering the US are required to take a COVID-19 test no more than one day prior to departure, and present a negative test result before boarding their flight. Source: Photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP

In early December, President Biden announced that the pre-departure COVID-19 testing for international travellers had been shortened. 

“In particular, the CDC has shortened the timeline for required pre-departure COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated travellers from no more than three days prior to travel to no more than one day,” he was quoted saying. “As a result, international air travellers to the US from all countries, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, must take a COVID-19 test within one day of departure and show a negative test result before they board a flight to the US.”

At the end of November, President Biden ensured that no lockdown measures would be enforced this winter. He instead encouraged people to get vaccination and booster shots, and wear masks around others, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, universities and colleges across the US are dealing with outbreaks on campus. The incidents have prompted cancellations of in-person exams for the Fall term, and a move to online learning once more at the beginning of the Winter term.

In light of rising Omicron cases and changes to US international travel, universities are now urging students to remain within the country during the holiday season.

“Given the uncertainties surrounding the Omicron variant, new travel restrictions, and closures of US embassies and consular posts in certain countries, the University’s International Services Office (ISO) strongly advises against international students leaving the US right now,” a statement from the University of Rochester reads. The university added that undergraduate students are allowed to apply for on-campus housing for the winter holidays.

Top universities in the US have also issued booster mandates to students and employees before they’re allowed to return to campus next year. Some of the universities that have enforced this new rule include:

More institutions are expected to join this list as Omicron-related cases develops, which is predicted to peak in mid-January next year.