(Washington, DC) -- The U.S. is implementing travel restrictions for non-citizens amid the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
Starting Monday, travel will be restricted from South Africa and seven other countries due to the heavily-mutated strain. That includes Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
Reports say chief medical advisor to the White House Dr. Anthony Fauci has briefed President Biden on the new variant. This comes just weeks after pandemic-related travel restrictions were lifted for visitors to the U.S. from about 30 countries.
In the meantime, companies that produced coronavirus vaccines are now testing them against the new variant found in South Africa. Pfizer and BioNTech said Friday more data is expected in about two weeks. Meantime, Johnson and Johnson is also testing its vaccine to see how it responds to the variant. The new strain has a high number of mutations.
The World Health Organization assigned that Greek letter on Friday, also identifying it as a variant of concern. It apparently got that distinction due to what the WHO is calling a large number of mutations. In a statement, WHO officials say preliminary evidence points to an increased risk of reinfection with the Omicron variant.