US Announces Travel Restrictions For Eight African Countries Over New COVID Variant

 

On November 26, President Biden issued a Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019. The proclamation is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on Monday, November 29, 2021. This proclamation notes that this does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on November 29, 2021.
The entry restrictions cover travelers (with certain exceptions) who were physically present within the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.
Excerpt:

The national emergency caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the United States continues to pose a grave threat to our health and security. As of November 26, 2021, the United States has experienced more than 47 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 773,000 COVID-19 deaths. It is the policy of my Administration to implement science-based public health measures, across all areas of the Federal Government, to act swiftly and aggressively to prevent further spread of the disease.

On November 24, 2021, the Republic of South Africa informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of a new B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that was detected in that country. On November 26, 2021, the WHO Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution announced that B.1.1.529 constitutes a variant of concern. While new information is still emerging, the profile of B.1.1.529 includes multiple mutations across the SARS-CoV-2 genome, some of which are concerning. According to the WHO, preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other variants of concern. Further, the WHO reports that the number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in the Republic of South Africa. Based on these developments, and in light of the extensive cross-border transit and proximity in Southern Africa, the detection of B.1.1.529 cases in some Southern African countries, and the lack of widespread genomic sequencing in Southern Africa, the United States Government, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), within the Department of Health and Human Services, has reexamined its policies on international travel and concluded that further measures are required to protect the public health from travelers entering the United States from the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe. In addition to these travel restrictions, the CDC shall implement other mitigation measures for travelers departing from the countries listed above and destined for the United States, as needed.

Given the recommendation of the CDC, working in close coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, described above, I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to suspend and restrict the entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of noncitizens of the United States (“noncitizens”) who were physically present within the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f) and 1185(a), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, hereby find that the unrestricted entry into the United States of persons described in section 1 of this proclamation would, except as provided for in section 2 of this proclamation, be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and that their entry should be subject to certain restrictions, limitations, and exceptions.

Read in full here.

 

USG to End Travel Restrictions on 11/8/21 EST, Announces Global Vaccination Requirement

 

A week from today, the United States will officially end the travel restrictions imposed under four Presidential Proclamations. In its place, the U.S. Government will require a global vaccination requirement for all adult foreign national travelers coming to the United States. The State/CA announcement notes that “does not necessarily mean that your local U.S. embassy or consulate is able to immediately schedule all affected applicants for visa interviews.”
Via travel.state.gov:
On October 25, President Biden announced a Presidential Proclamation titled “A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”  This proclamation, which takes effect at 12:01 am Eastern Standard Time on November 8, 2021, will end the travel restrictions under Presidential Proclamations (P.P.) 9984, 9992, 10143, and 10199 as they relate to the suspension of entry into the United States of persons physically present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen Area, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.  In place of these restrictions, the President announced a global vaccination requirement for all adult foreign national travelers.   This proclamation applies to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departs after 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on November 8, 2021.  More information about this global vaccination requirement, including details on exceptions and waivers due to humanitarian concerns, is available at Non-U.S. citizen, Non-U.S. immigrants: Air Travel to the United States | CDC.
Pursuant to President Biden’s proclamation, as of November 8, the Department can process visa applications for individuals physically present in the affected countries.
Please note that the rescission of these P.P.’s does not necessarily mean that your local U.S. embassy or consulate is able to immediately schedule all affected applicants for visa interviews. Please see the embassy/consulate website for information on what services they are offering at this time and instructions on how to apply for a nonimmigrant visa.

###

#EU Lifts Travel Restrictions For Residents of 14 Countries, Excludes U.S. Travelers #realitycheck

 

Via the EU: Council agrees to start lifting travel restrictions for residents of some third countries from 1 July 2020
The Council today adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. Travel restrictions should be lifted for countries listed in the recommendation, with this list being reviewed and, as the case may be, updated every two weeks.
Based on the criteria and conditions set out in the recommendation, as from 1 July member states should start lifting the travel restrictions at the external borders for residents of the following third countries:
    • Algeria
    • Australia
    • Canada
    • Georgia
    • Japan
    • Montenegro
    • Morocco
    • New Zealand
    • Rwanda
    • Serbia
    • South Korea
    • Thailand
    • Tunisia
    • Uruguay
    • China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity
Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican should be considered as EU residents for the purpose of this recommendation.
The criteria to determine the third countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted cover in particular the epidemiological situation and containment measures, including physical distancing, as well as economic and social considerations. They are applied cumulatively.
Regarding the epidemiological situation, third countries listed should meet the following criteria, in particular:
    • number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100 000 inhabitants close to or below the EU average (as it stood on 15 June 2020)
    • stable or decreasing trend of new cases over this period in comparison to the previous 14 days
    • overall response to COVID-19 taking into account available information, including on aspects such as testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting, as well as the reliability of the information and, if needed, the total average score for International Health Regulations (IHR). Information provided by EU delegations on these aspects should also be taken into account.
    • Reciprocity should also be taken into account regularly and on a case-by-case basis.
The Council’s announcement notes that the recommendation “is not a legally binding instrument and that “the authorities of the member states remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation.” It further notes that “a Member State should not decide to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner.”

Continue reading

COVID-19 Pandemic Howler: “No one in DC, to include S, gives AF about AF”

Update 1:14 PDT: US Embassy Pretoria’s meltdown (see below)

We’ve explained previously about evacuations in the State Department’s Foreign Service posts (see New Travel Advisories and Voluntary/Mandatory Departures: Micronesia (L3), Tajikistan (L3), Mongolia (L4)).
Authorized departure is an evacuation procedure, short of ordered departure, by which post employees and/or eligible family members are permitted to leave post in advance of normal rotation when U.S. national interests or imminent threat to life requires it. Departure is requested by the chief of mission (COM) and approved by the Under Secretary for Management (M). The incumbent to this office is Brian Bulatao.
Ordered departure is an evacuation procedure by which the number of U.S. government employees, eligible family members, or both, at a Foreign Service post is reduced. Ordered departure is mandatory and may be initiated by the chief of mission or the Secretary of State. Posts with very few exceptions, report to their regional or geographic bureaus headed respectively by an Assistant Secretary, a Senate confirmed position.
As we’ve watched this pandemic unfold at home, we’ve also watched the State Department’s troubling response to it, particularly at overseas posts and in its public communication.
Update: On March 20, US Ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks reportedly held a “town hall” meeting for staff members “after mounting complaints from employees that she had refused to self-quarantine or take other protective measures, according to accounts of the meeting provided to The Washington Post by people familiar with it.” She apparently “attended a dinner at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club with Brazilian officials who later tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But she told her State Department employees she did not consider herself at risk because the dinner was outside and she believed the virus could not withstand the Florida heat.” A second hand source with extensive sources told us “Embassy Pretoria is in meltdown.”
Recently, we heard about Post 1 in Africa that just went into ordered departure. We understand that employees were hoping to get on to what is being called “the last Air France flight.” We were told that what happens if/after they arrive in Paris is “unknown.”  
Then we received a howler from Post 2 in Africa:  They’ve shut the airport here. And closed the borders in [XXX]. No one gives AF about AF. Authorized Departure, yes. But flights were full or cancelled so that didn’t leave much room for options. No one in DC, to include S, gives AF about AF.”
We understand that this particular post was given the option to evacuate but “there’s no consensus” from the AF bureau if they’re going to authorize “ordered departure.” Post has sent a request but no response from D.C. — “they’re dragging their feet.”
Source from Post 2 says that they were given a 24-hour window for voluntary departure but then the border to [the neighboring country] had closed as well, and that also cuts off supplies for their host country.
“And as you know, people get crazy if they can’t get food or supplies.”
Source from Post 2 further writes “I don’t know how many more EACs and thresholds they want to cross before they say you’re on OD [ordered departure]. And – we are on staggered shifts so teleworking and not really getting anything done.”
Post 2 also says that “A lot of us are worried because of the optics on a lot of the confirmed cases on the continent – they’re all foreigners.” That’s a real worry given what’s happening in Ethiopia and Cameroon. 
On March 18, the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia issued a Security Alert on Reports of Anti-Foreigner Sentiment:
The Embassy continues to receive reports regarding a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment revolving around the announcement of COVID-19 in Ethiopia. Typical derogatory comments directed at foreigners, the terms “China” and “Ferengi” (foreigner), have been reportedly coupled with the label “Corona,” indicating a disparaging view on the link between the outbreak of COVID-19 and foreigners in Ethiopia. Incidents of harassment and assault directly related to COVID-19 have been reported by other foreigners living within Addis Ababa and other cities throughout the country. Reports indicate that foreigners have been attacked with stones, denied transportation services (taxis, Ride, etc.), being spat on, chased on foot, and been accused of being infected with COVID-19.”
On March 19, the US Embassy in Cameroon issued a similar Security Alert:
The Embassy has received reports regarding a rise of anti-foreigner sentiment revolving around the announcement of the spread of COVID-19.  Incidents of harassment and assault directly related to COVID-19 have been reported by U.S. citizens and other foreigners in both Yaounde and Douala.  Reports include verbal and online harassment, stone throwing, and banging on vehicles occupied by expatriates.
During the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the attack on one of the Ebola Treatment Centers in February 2019 was preceded by a change in public behavior toward the Medicins sans Frontiers (MSF) team. “On February 17, residents began shouting “Ebola, Ebola, Ebola” at the MSF team. Simultaneously, there was a marked drop in suspected cases referred to the ETC. The ETC had been receiving 35 to 40 suspected Ebola cases a week. However, on the day before the attack, only 1 suspected Ebola case was referred, and on the day of the attack, only 2. Rumors about foreigners experimenting on locals, taking organs, and filling the bodies with concrete and Ebola being a fabrication were also circulating.”
Our Post 2 source says that We knew what we signed up for. This is an unprecedented time. But borders and airports closing is a bit of a game changer in these high threat posts. It would be wonderful to know there’s some sort of exit strategy. And there isn’t one when they shut down the borders and airports.”
For now other worries include the civil unrest that may occur if food and supplies are stopped; not having plans in place for medical evacuation if/when it becomes necessary; the fact that these places are austere in medical facilities to take care of their own people let alone handling a car accident or malaria; that the guards are wonderful and in place, but you know, for how long?
There are worst case scenarios that we’re not going to spell out here but we’re sure the AF bureau and all posts in Africa are aware of them. It can’t be that no one has thought about what to do with posts in Africa during a pandemic.
Is there a pandemic plan for FS posts somewhere in Foggy Bottom’s vaults? What are their plans for post operations, repatriation of employees/family members, protection of local employees, or continuity of operations during/after a pandemic. Have they simply brushed off the shelf the Bush Administration’s old ‘stay remain in country/shelter in place’ policy during a pandemic without telling anyone?

State/CA: Hundreds of American Travelers Stuck Overseas Due to COVID19 Travel Restrictions

 

US Embassy Haiti: Employees on “Shelter In Place” Order, 15-Mile Radius Travel Restriction

 

The US Embassy in Port-au-Prince issued a Security Alert on November 18 as anti-corruption protests broke out in Haiti. The alert cites protests, roadblocks, burning tires, and possible gunfire within the capital city including the areas of Petionville, Peguyville, Delmas, La Saline, Cite Soleil, Nazon, Sans Fil, Bel-Air, Champ-de-Mars, Carrefour Aeroport, Bourdon, Canape Vert, and outside the capital, in the areas of Port-de-Paix, Les Cayes, Cap Haitien, Hinche, Gonaives, and Jeremie.

The Embassy required its American employees to shelter in place. “Pending further changes, the Embassy plans to announce a delayed opening (10 a.m., Monday, November 19.” Employees remain “prohibited from traveling within Haiti beyond a 15-mile radius of the Embassy without prior Chief of Mission approval.”

US Embassy Addis Ababa Restricts Personal Travel of USG Personnel in Ethiopia

Posted:12:09 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

On August 9, the US Embassy in Ethiopia issued an emergency message informing U.S. citizens in the country of the restrictions on personal travel by USG personnel:

The U.S. Embassy wishes to inform U.S. citizens that protests in Ethiopia have resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and government security forces.  As such, Embassy personnel have been restricted from personal travel to areas in the Amhara and Oromia region states.  Restrictions of future travel by Embassy personnel are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

While U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted in the demonstrations, the unpredictability of protests presents significant risks for travelers to the affected regions.  Everyone should increase their level of situational awareness, continuously assess their surroundings, and evaluate their personal level of safety and avoid demonstrations or large gatherings.

Also on Addis Ababa:

 

#

 

@StateDept Restricts Travel of USG Personnel/Family Members in Saudi Arabia, Issues New Travel Warning

Posted: 3:29 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

The State Department issued a new Travel Warning for Saudi Arabia on July 27. It cites continuing security threats in the country including a “high potential” for spill over violence from Yemen. The new warning also notes the travel restrictions for USG personnel and family members in the country. Excerpt:

The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens carefully consider the risks of travel to Saudi Arabia due to continuing ISIL (Da’esh) directed or inspired attacks across the Kingdom. Furthermore, continuing violence in neighboring countries such as Yemen has a high potential to spill over into Saudi Arabia. This replaces the Travel Warning issued April 11, 2016.

Security threats continue. Terrorist groups, some affiliated with ISIL or Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), have targeted both Saudi and Western interests, including the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, mosques and significant religious sites (both Sunni and Shia), and places where members of the Shia-Muslim minority gather. Possible targets include mosques, pilgrimage locations, and Saudi government facilities, as well as housing compounds, hotels, restaurants, shopping areas, international schools, Western consulates and embassies, and other facilities where Westerners congregate.

sa-map

Over the past year, there have been multiple attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia, some resulting in significant loss of life. On July 4, 2016 suicide bombers launched attacks near:

  • U.S. Consulate General Jeddah
  • the Prophet’s Mosque (also known as Al-Masjid an-Nabawi) in Medina
  • a mosque in Qatif

On February 8, 2016, ISIL claimed responsibility for an explosion targeting a Saudi citizen in the Al-Azizia district of Riyadh. Media reports indicate that Saudi authorities thwarted plans to attack the Al-Janadriah festival in Riyadh, which took place in February 2016. In January 2016 a Shia mosque in Al-Ahsa in Eastern Province was attacked, as was a Shia mosque in Najran in October 2015. On October 16, 2015, a mass shooting took place at a gathering in Saihat. On August 6, 2015, a mosque in the city of Abha was bombed.  Most of the victims in that attack were members of the Saudi security forces.

U.S. government personnel and their families are restricted from travel in the following areas:

  • within 50 miles of the Yemeni border
  • the city of Jizan
  • the city of Najran
  • Qatif in the Eastern Province and its suburbs, including Awamiyah
  • Hofuf and its suburbs in the Al Hasa Governorate

Read in full here.

 

#

U.S. Embassy Belgium Requests USG Personnel Defer Travel to Brussels Until 3/29, DOD Travel Restrictions On

Posted: 6:00 pm EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

On March 22, U.S. Embassy Brussels sent a security message to U.S. citizens in Belgium informing them that an anti-terrorism police activity is ongoing in the neighborhood of Schaerbeek. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid this and any other police action that may occur. In light of today’s attacks Belgium authorities have

  • Raised the threat level to FOUR, the highest in the Belgian scale
  • Evacuated the airport, at this time it remains closed for outgoing flights and all flights to Brussels were diverted.
  • All public transport in Brussels has been halted and tunnels have been closed.

A subsequent embassy message requests USG personnel to defer non-essential travel to the capital city until Tuesday, March 29, 2016:

The U.S. Embassy in Brussels informs U.S. citizens that anti-terrorism police activity is ongoing. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid this and any other police action that may occur. Mission Brussels requests that U.S. government personnel defer non-essential travel to Brussels until Tuesday, March 29, 2016:

In light of today’s attacks Belgium authorities have

  • Raised the threat level to FOUR, the highest in the Belgian scale
  • Evacuated the airport, at this time it remains closed for outgoing flights and all flights to Brussels were diverted.
  • Public transport in Brussels is limited and several roads and tunnels remain closed.

These events take place with little or no notice, therefore U.S. citizens are urged to:

  • Be aware of local events
  • Follow local authority instructions
  • Monitor local media further developments 
  • U.S. citizens should contact their family and friends to let them know they are safe.
  • Take the appropriate steps to bolster your personal security

Meanwhile, the DOD and the European Command have implemented a travel restrictions to Belgium on March 22, 2016. They apply to all uniformed service members, civilian and contractor employees, and command-sponsored dependents.

 

#

US Embassy N’Djamena: Travel Restrictions and Security Review in Chad

Posted: 2:17 am  EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

July 7 Security Message: Due to the bombings in N’Djamena on Monday, June 15, and Monday, June 29, U.S. Embassy staff is restricted from visiting public, open-air markets at any time, and may not attend or visit public events or venues not held at US government residences.

Photo by discovery.state.gov

US Embassy N’Djamena, Chad — image from discovery.state.gov

#