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The Omicron variant has a number of troubling mutations. Here’s what we know about them so far

US President Joe Biden speaks to the media at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland as he arrives from Nantucket, Massachusetts, on November 28. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

New US travel restrictions on southern Africa have come into effect, as the Biden administration seeks to respond to concerns over the Omicron variant.

The Biden administration is restricting travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

Biden signed the official proclamation Friday restricting the travel of those « physically present » in the countries during the « 14-day period preceding their entry, or attempted entry into the United States, » starting at one minute past midnight on Monday morning.

The proclamation includes a list of those exempted from the new restrictions, including US citizens, lawful permanent residents and non-citizens who are the spouses of citizens or permanent residents.

The director of the National Institutes of Health stressed Sunday that the newly emerged Covid-19 variant « ought to redouble » vaccination efforts and other mitigation strategies, saying that while much is unknown about the variant, action should be taken now to avoid « a situation that makes this worse. »

« It’s certainly not good news. We don’t know yet how much of an impact this will have. It ought to redouble our efforts to use the tools that we have, which are vaccinations and boosters, and to be sure we’re getting those to the rest of the world, too, which the US is doing more than any other country, » NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins told CNN’s Dana Bash on « State of the Union. »

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