(WXYZ) – As of Monday, non-US citizens will no longer be able to travel from South Africa and seven other African nations due to the spread of a new variant of COVID-19, Omicron.
That means people have less than 72 hours to leave certain countries if they plan to come to the states.
Time is ticking for many, including Northern Michigan University student Mbongeni Mapphosa.
“From now on I should be able to do it before Monday, I don’t know, but with everything that’s going on. Who knows what can happen, “said Maphosa.
This is not Thanksgiving that he had in mind when he boarded a plane to Zimbabwe last Friday.
“I thought Thanksgiving weekend would be the perfect time to visit family,” he adds.
Unfortunately he was wrong. He’s now wondering how to get back to Marquette, Michigan before the U.S. travel ban goes into effect.
President Joe Biden says the travel ban is a precautionary measure.
“We don’t know much about the variant other than that it is very worrying and is spreading quickly,” said President Biden.
Dr. Beaumont Health’s Matthew Sims says the Omicron variant is taking over South Africa.
“About 100 confirmed cases in South Africa,” said Dr. Sims.
He says the concern is how contagious this variant appears.
“All of the viruses they sequenced in the last week or so were this new variant as opposed to Delta,” he explains.
In addition to South Africa, the USA is currently suspending trips from Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
“It was found in travelers from these areas and other countries,” said Dr. Sims.
He says no cases have been reported in the United States. “We are not aware of any cases, but unfortunately that could change any minute,” adds Dr. Sims added.
Maposah hopes he can take the next flight from Zimbabwe and return before Monday.
“I just don’t know and that’s the scary part,” he adds.
For the second year in a row, some international students traveling to southern Africa may not make it home on vacation. “
Says Maposah, “I have several friends who have never been able to go home during Covid and have been looking forward to coming home this December.”
As the vacation travel season continues, Dr. Sims, if you don’t have to fly, don’t. He says this virus is spreading quickly and the airport and planes are some of the fastest places a virus can spread.
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