- The CDC ordered airlines to share the identities of passengers who have traveled recently to southern Africa.
- Airlines were given a 24-hour window after passengers arrive in the US to do so, Reuters reported.
- The notice applies to those who were in 1 of the 8 countries affected by travel restrictions put in place over the new Omicron variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a directive requiring airlines to disclose passenger names and other information about those who have recently been in eight southern African countries, according to documents seen by Reuters.
Effective November 8, the CDC required all airlines to collect contact tracing information from all international air passengers but had not required them to turn over those names.
The directive, which took effect late Tuesday, requires airlines to turn over the information within 24 hours of passengers arriving in the United States who have been in one of the eight African countries subject to travel restrictions.
In an effort to mitigate the spread of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, which was designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday, the Biden administration restricted travel from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini, Malawi, and Namibia starting on Monday.
The restrictions don’t apply to returning US citizens or permanent residents.
Travel restrictions on countries in southern Africa, however, have been criticized by world health leaders and other officials as both unnecessary and unfair.
On Monday, the WHO slammed countries for their travel bans.
“With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity. COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a statement.
Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera said in a Facebook post that travel bans imposed on southern Africa by the UK, EU, US are “Afrophobia.”
Charity Dean, CEO and cofounder of The Public Health Company, told Insider’s Hilary Brueck that it’s “unfair” to blame South Africa for the spread of the new variant.
“It very well may have come from another country or another continent. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. They deserve incredible recognition for detecting it, going public with it, transparently sharing everything they know,” Dean said.
The Omicron variant was first identified earlier in November in South Africa and Botswana, and has since been spotted in other countries in Asia, North America, and Europe. No US travel restrictions have been put in place blocking travel to or from Western countries.
Dutch authorities on Tuesday said the variant was detected in Europe days earlier than was previously thought, and it wasn’t clear if the infected individual had been recently in southern Africa.