Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the new U.S. restrictions on travel from eight southern African countries over concerns about a new COVID-19 variant found in South Africa are "counterproductive in [the] short and long run” and hurt “current containment efforts, discouraging future sharing."
Gottlieb further added that there's "too much we don't know to impose economically, socially ruinous policies on SA and other nations. Ready, fire, aim is not prudent public health policy. Vaccine, testing requirements for incoming travelers could be prudent. Outright travel bans can hurt more than help."
The U.S. on Friday announced the restrictions "as a precautionary measure" after the World Health Organization named Omicron, B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern "because it has some concerning properties," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said in a video published on Twitter.
"This variant has a large number of mutations, and some of these mutations have some worrying characteristics."
President Joe Biden said the new restrictions will take effect on Nov. 29
"As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises," he said.
An administration official told Reuters the restrictions are being "implemented out of an abundance of caution in light of a new COVID-19 variant circulating in Southern Africa."
The United States only lifted travel restrictions on South Africa on Nov. 8.
A second administration official said the restrictions are expected to take effect at 12:01 a.m. EST Monday and came after a high-level administration meeting Friday afternoon to discuss the issue. The United States could add countries to the restriction list if the variant spreads, the official said.
The eight countries include South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.
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