Biden South Africa travel ban announced hours after Fauci said White House didn't know enough to implement ban

Dr. Marc Siegel: New coronavirus variant is of concern, don’t know how it will respond to vaccine

Fox News contributor Dr. Marc Siegel calls for severe travel restrictions to and from South Africa as a new variant of coronavirus has emerged.

President Biden has imposed another coronavirus-related travel ban just hours after one of his top advisers cautioned that the U.S. didn’t have enough information to do so.

On Friday morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN that the new of COVID-19 spreading through Africa, now named by the World Health Organization (WHO) as Omnicron, was raising a “red flag that this might be an issue we don’t know.” He also emphasized the need to conduct testing. 

When asked about a travel ban, he added: “Obviously as soon as we find out more information we’ll make a decision as quickly as we possibly can. You always put these things on the table, but you don’t want to say you’re going to do it until you have some scientific reason to do it. That’s the reason why we’re rushing now to get that scientific data to try and make an informed decision about something like that.”

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 04: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee about the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

He went on to say that “you want to find out if in fact [the variant] does evade the vaccines.”

It’s unclear what additional information, if any, prompted the administration’s decision to ban travel from eight countries on Friday. In a statement, Biden indicated that he made the decision after meeting with Fauci.

President Joe Biden attends a virtual COVID-19 summit during the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“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,” he said. “As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries.”

The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. 

The variant has been identified in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. About a dozen other countries, including the United Kingdom, will create similar travel restrictions. Travel restrictions will not apply to American citizens and lawful permanent residents, but all international travelers must test negative prior to travel. 

Fox News’ Peter Aitken contributed to this report.

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