New Coronavirus Strain Leads to Renewed Travel Bans for Southern Africa

The United States, Canada, the European Union and various other countries around the world have announced travel bans for South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Most of the bans went into effect immediately on Friday, November 26, before South African scientists had even completed a meeting with the World Health Organization regarding a new Coronavirus strain, called the Omicron variant. President Joe Biden announced a travel ban by the US beginning Monday, November 29. Only US citizens and residents will be allowed to travel from southern Africa.

This comes only three weeks after the US implemented new requirements for foreign travelers to enter the country. The Omicron variant is responsible for the recent surge of infections in South Africa’s Gauteng province, the most populated state in South Africa and where the OR Tambo International Airport is located. The new variant has already showed up in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.  Mutations in the variant have raised concerns that it may not only be highly transmissible but also able to break through vaccination protections. Despite that, medical experts with WHO said Friday there was insufficient information to make that determination and warned against overreaction. There have been numerous other strains that did not spread the way Delta has.

A number of countries have halted flights from southern Africa. There is no indication when the travel bans will be lifted again, but SCI members with plans to hunt any of the affected countries will need to contact travel agents and airlines regarding options should they need to change or cancel flights or even fly with different airlines on different routes. Double check carriage policies for firearms if changing airlines, and firearm transit policies of any transiting destinations. Those with travel insurance plans should read the conditions of coverage in their policies before canceling any trips. Remember, fear of contracting the new COVID-19 variant is not a coverable cause for cancellation.  

More details on the travel bans should be available in the coming days.

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