MIAMI – Following the discovery of a possibly more contagious novel coronavirus type in South Africa, President Joe Biden announced on Friday that most travelers from eight southern African nations will be denied entry into the United States beginning on Monday.

The restrictions apply to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi. Most non-US citizens who have been in said countries within the prior 14 days will not be allowed into the US.

The flight ban and travel restrictions do not apply to US citizens and lawful permanent residents. Biden made the announcement while spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket.

As Delta Air Lines (DL) and United Airlines (UA) both fly to South Africa, with the latter set to resume nonstop flights from Newark to Cape Town on December 1, industry trade group Airlines for America said “specifics remain unknown at this time and there are many unanswered questions.”

According to, the group added, “Amid this rapidly evolving situation, it is critical that U.S. government decisions regarding international travel restrictions and requirements be rooted in science.”

Boeing 777-223ER. United Airlines is one of the few Airlines to have Pratt and Whitney PW4090 engines. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

The Omicron Variant

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no instances of the Omicron variant have been identified in the United States as of yet. The CDC says it is ready to detect if the B.1.1.529 variant appears in the country.

After the World Health Organization declared Omicron “of concern,” countries all over the world sought to halt travel from southern Africa. Unlike Biden’s bans, several of these restrictions take effect immediately.

The United States could add countries to the restriction list if the variant spreads, a senior administration official said.

Featured image: South African Airways ZS-SXU Airbus A330-243. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways