The United States government has announced the lifting of travel restrictions on southern Africa countries effective 31st of December, 2021.
The travel restrictions were imposed a month ago when all flights from the region were suspended amid the outbreak of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19.
South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi are amongst the eight countries that will be allowed to resume travels to the US from the start of the New Year.
When these travel restrictions were first imposed by the USA and European countries, the United Nations and the African Union condemned them.
The travel suspensions were deemed unfair and pointless, according to African countries who say they were being unfairly targeted.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned early this month that the restrictions could lead to “travel apartheid”, describing them as “deeply unfair, punitive and ineffective” in stopping the spread of the variant.
He said Africans should not be collectively punished for sharing health information with the world.
The AU chairperson Chairperson Mahamat Faki said wealthier nations should help the continent increase its vaccination rates which currently stand at under 6% while some developed countries were already giving third booster shots.
The US government said Omicron infections are already present in the US, making the travel suspension pointless.
The World Health Organization says more than 23 countries globally have now reported cases of Omicron.
The new variant B.1.1.529, officially named omicron, was first discovered on November 11, 2021, in Botswana, in southern Africa.
According to researchers the new variant shows an “extremely” high number of mutations of the coronavirus.
32 mutations were found in the spike protein compared to the delta variant, which is considered highly infectious with eight mutations.
Omicron: AU, UN criticize travel restrictions on African countries