A new poll shows a vast majority of people in the United States support President Joe Biden's ban on travel imposed on eight countries in southern Africa, which the United Nations has denounced as “travel apartheid.”
According to the new Hill-HarrisX poll, released on Tuesday, 71 percent of registered voters said they approve of the Biden administration's decision to restrict travelers from the African countries, while 29 percent of respondents said they disapprove.
Seventy-eight percent of Republicans, 88 percent of Democrats, and 82 percent of independents support Biden's travel ban to contain the highly contagious omicron variant of coronavirus.
The Biden administration implemented the ban to restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
The administration said that the measure was taken out of an abundance of caution in light of the new variant.
The decision sparked an immediate backlash from the international community and public health experts, who say it is ineffective and punitive against African countries.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called the US response “travel apartheid.”
He said that travel restrictions imposed over COVID-19 that isolate any one country or region as "not only deeply unfair and punitive - they are ineffective."
Guterres stated that the only way to reduce the risk of transmission while allowing for travel and economic engagement was to repeatedly test travelers, "together with other appropriate and truly effective measures,” according to Reuters.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was "deeply concerning" that African countries are being "penalized" with travel restrictions after detecting and reporting the omicron variant.
Republican Senator Rand Paul on Sunday slammed Dr. Anthony Fauci’s “authoritarianism” and American travel restrictions on the African countries, saying that “the travel bans aren't going to work” to prevent the variant from spreading.
He also said that “restrictions on our liberties” were not science-based, but “based on whims.”
African American writer and journalist Abayomi Azikiwe said,” This ban was not based on science since there was no evidence that the variant originated in South Africa. Rather than applaud the scientific discovery, the people of the region have been punished. Unfortunately, the media coverage of the appearance of Omicron has enhanced the already existing fears about the transmissibility of the disease.”
“The United States remains the epicenter of the other variants such as Delta. The medical spokesman for the administration of President Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said maybe the ban can be lifted soon. Although no word has been given from the president. Cases of the virus are going up rapidly in sections of the country including the Midwest and Northeast. The disease must be battled with adequate vaccinations, safety protocols and medicines,” he commented to Press TV.
“The travel bans on 8 Southern African states is further damaging the economies of the region. This will impact imports from the US and the European Union. Support for the travel ban in the US is being fueled by the nature of the reporting in the corporate and government-controlled media,” he stated.
Dr. Fauci has said the United States will “hopefully” be able to lift its travel ban on African countries “in a quite reasonable period of time.”
In an interview with CNN last week, Fauci said that the US was re-evaluating the travel ban, a week after he said the ban would give the US time to prepare for the highly contagious omicron variant of coronavirus.
The White House chief medical adviser said some early data about the omicron data is “a bit encouraging,” and added that now the travel ban could be lifted.