The US is set to restrict travel from eight countries on Monday because of a new coronavirus variant.
The countries are South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini, Malawi, and Namibia, NBC News reported.
The World Health Organization labeled Omicron a coronavirus "variant of concern" on Friday.
The US is planning to restrict travel from eight countries in southern Africa on Monday because of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, multiple outlets reported on Friday.
A senior administration official told NBC News that the restricted countries would include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini, Malawi, and Namibia. The Washington Post, AP, CNN, and other outlets reported the same.
The restrictions won't apply to returning US citizens or permanent residents, however, who need to test negative for the virus before traveling, the Associated Press reported.
Biden said he wanted to be 'cautious'
The variant, which the World Health Organization labeled a "variant of concern" on Friday, was first reported in South Africa, and other cases have been reported in Botswana, Hong Kong, and Belgium.
The WHO reserves the term "variants of concern" for select coronavirus strains, like Delta, that are more transmissible than other strains, cause more severe disease, or are more resistant to vaccines. Omicron's high number of mutations could increase the odds that vaccines and other treatments won't be as effective against the variant, Insider's Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce reported.
When asked about the decision on Friday, US President Joe Biden told reporters he wanted to be "cautious."
"We don't know a lot about the variant except that it is a big concern and seems to spread rapidly," he said, according to CNN correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
Coronavirus cases in South Africa began to rise around the same time that the new variant was first detected. Since early November the country's average daily cases have gone from around 275 to 3,700 per day.
"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning," the WHO said on Friday. "Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other" variants of concern.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN's "New Day" Friday morning that there is "no indication" that the new variant is currently circulating in the US, but the country is relatively slow to detect such variants with genetic sequencing.
United Airlines and Delta fly between the US and South Africa
United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are the only two American air carriers currently flying between the US and South Africa. The two carriers serve Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, with non-stop flights from Atlanta for Delta and Newark for United.
Scheduled flights to South Africa may be impacted and neither airline has said if repatriation flights will be conducted yet. No US airline currently flies non-stop from the other countries affected by the travel restrictions.
Repatriation flights were common in the early days of the pandemic as US citizens flocked to any available airline and even chartered private aircraft to return home. If flights are suspended on US airlines, American citizens may have to turn to foreign airlines to get back stateside.
United and Delta did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Becca Cohen and Aria Bendix contributed reporting.
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