State Department issues 'do not travel' warnings to 8 countries amid omicron variant concerns

The U.S. State Department has issued level four "do not travel" advisories to South Africa and seven nearby countries amid the new omicron variant spreading throughout the region.

The new warning comes after the World Health Organization designated the COVID-19 omicron variant a "Variant of Concern." Originally, the omicron variant was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on Nov. 24.

According to the U.S. State Department, a level 4 travel advisory is the highest advisory level issued and notes that there is a "greater likelihood of life-threatening risks" under this level.

South Africa has experienced a steep increase in COVID-19 infections recently, and the health agency says this coincides with the omicron variant. 

South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana were all put under a level 4 "do not travel" advisory by the U.S. State Department on Saturday.


A Lufthansa plane lands at Dulles International airport in Dulles, Virginia on March 12, 2020. - Between 70 to 150 million people in the United States could eventually be infected with the novel coronavirus, according to a projection shared with Cong

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President Biden announced in a statement on Friday that he is restricting travel from South Africa and seven other countries due to the omicron variant.

"This morning I was briefed by my chief medical advisor, Dr. Tony Fauci, and the members of our COVID response team, about the Omicron variant, which is spreading through Southern Africa," Biden said in a statement. As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries. These new restrictions will take effect on November 29."

Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a Saturday morning interview on NBC's "Weekend TODAY" that he would not be surprised if there are cases of the omicron variant already in the United States.

"You know, I would not be surprised if it is. We have not detected it yet. But, when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you're already having travel-related cases that they've noted in Israel and Belgium and in other places – when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go, essentially, all over," Fauci said.

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Fox News Julia Musto and Peter Aitken contributed to this report.

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