The proclamation repeals the ban as of 12:01 a.m. ET on December 31.
The travel restrictions had come under fire across the globe, described by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres as “travel apartheid.” Biden administration officials repeatedly defended the move as an action to give the US more time to understand the variant and its spread.
“The travel restrictions imposed by that proclamation are no longer necessary to protect the public health,” Biden said in the new proclamation.
Tuesday’s proclamation noted that scientists have determined that people vaccinated against Covid-19 “are protected against severe disease and hospitalization from the Omicron variant.” It also said that the variant is now in over 100 countries and is “prevalent” in the US, where cases have been rising for weeks. It said that “substantial progress” has been made in understanding the Omicron variant.
Biden ordered the restrictions in late November on the advice of his public health officials, cutting off most travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. The measures barred nearly all foreign nationals who had been “physically present” in the countries during the “14-day period preceding their entry, or attempted entry into the United States.” US citizens, lawful permanent residents and non-citizens who are the spouses of citizens or permanent residents were exempt.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.