The U.S. Will Ban Entry to Most Non-U.S. Citizens Who Have Recently Been in South Africa to try to limit the spread of the COVID-19 variant rampant in South Africa. The ban would take effect Saturday, January 30, 2021.
The South African variant, known as 501.V2, which has multiple mutations that help it bind more effectively with human cell receptors, and is estimated to be 50% more infectious. In some areas of South Africa, more than 80% of the viruses taken from infected individuals are 501.V2, evidencing its advantages relative to other strains. 501.V2 is also more resistant to antibodies; in one study, nearly half of the blood plasma samples from subjects previously infected with another variant of COVID-19 were unable to neutralize 501.V2. While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines typically cause a vaccinated person to produce greater quantities of antibodies than an infection does, to date there hasn't been a comprehensive study of how well the current vaccines fare against 501.V2.
To date, the South African variant has been found in the UK, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland. At time of writing the variant hasn't yet been detected in the U.S., but could already be circulating, since the U.S. does significantly less genetic sequencing per capita than the UK and some other countries.
In addition to the travel ban on non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in South Africa, the Biden Administration plans to, on Monday January 25, 2021, reimpose an entry ban on virtually all non citizens who have recently been in the UK, Brazil, Ireland, or the European Union.
The following day, Tuesday, January 26, 2021, is when the U.S. will start requiring a pre-travel coronavirus test for all international arrivals to the U.S.
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