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Tipsheet

Psaki Defends Biden Administration's African Travel Ban Over Omicron

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended President Biden’s travel ban to African countries to stop the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. In her remarks, Psaki stated that the president followed the advice of health experts when implementing the restrictions. Since then, two confirmed Omicron cases have emerged in the United States.

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During the Thursday press conference, Psaki defended the travel restrictions, explaining that the goal behind them is to “save more lives” and that there’s no timeline when the restrictions will be lifted.

"I wouldn't anticipate the lifting of restrictions before we know more about the variant," Psaki said in the conference, according to The Hill. "None of these are meant to be permanent, none of them are meant to be a punishment, they're all put in place to protect the American people to hopefully save more lives." 

As we covered, on Friday, the White House announced that travel to several African countries would be restricted to combat the spread of the Omicron variant. The countries are South Africa, where the variant emerged, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

In a speech on Sunday, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the travel bans are “not informed by science” and will not be effective in stopping the spread of Omicron.

“The prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant,” Ramaphosa said in the speech, according to NPR. “The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to and also to recover from the pandemic.”

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In the United States, the first positive Omicron case emerged in San Francisco this week. The individual reportedly returned home from a visit to South Africa days before. The second case, also announced this week, emerged in Minnesota after the individual traveled to New York City for a conference.

South African television host Trevor Noah blasted the travel ban on the “Daily Show” on Monday, claiming that it’s “total bulls***” and the variant has been found in several countries where travel is not restricted.

“As a South African who does not have the variant, I think this travel ban is total bulls***, I really do,” he said on the show.

“Omicron has already been found in over a dozen countries, a dozen countries around the world. We don’t know where it started, we don’t know how long it’s been around, it’s everywhere,” Noah continued. “From Hong Kong, to Israel, to Spain, so why aren’t you banning travel from all of those countries too?”

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