The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ordered all airlines to hand over passenger names and information from eight other countries. 

This directive was first published by Reuters on Wednesday. It was issued to identify the Omicron variant and prevent its spread.

Botswana is Eswatini in Lesotho. Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi are also included.  

The CDC requested that airlines collect contact tracing data from international travelers on November 8 – names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth – but not to turn over those details.

The directive went into effect Tuesday night and gives airlines 24 hours to provide information about flights departing on or after November 29, 2012.

The CDC stated that the data would be handed over to the ‘jurisdictional State and local Public Health Partners for Public Health Follow-up’. It may also lead to’recommendations to potential postarrival virus testing, quarantine and isolation.

The CDC is ordering U.S. airlines to turn over the names of passengers who entered the U.S. from eight African countries facing travel restrictions. Pictured: CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia

U.S. Airlines are required to give names and addresses of people who have entered the United States from African countries with travel restrictions. Image: CDC Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia

The countries include Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Pictured: Passengers arrive at Newark-Liberty international  Airport from Johannesburg, South Africa, on a United Airlines flight, November 28

Botswana is Eswatini and Lesotho. Pictured: Passengers arrive at Newark-Liberty international  Airport from Johannesburg, South Africa, on a United Airlines flight, November 28

Friday’s announcement by the U.S. was that eight countries in southern Africa would be expelled from the country because of the Omicron variant. 

This ban is not applicable to American citizens and President Joe Biden stated that it was a precautionary measure while we gather more information. 

Researchers in South Africa first discovered the variant last week. It is thought to have been originated from Botswana.

There are 50 possible mutations. More than 30 of these can be found on spike protein which is used by coronaviruses to infect cells.

Two mutations have been made to the spike protein in Delta variant, still the dominant variant in the U.S. 

Although early evidence indicates it may be more transmissible that previous versions, it’s not clear if it can cause more serious illness or death.

Doctors in South Africa have reported anecdotally that patients infected with  Omicron appear to have mild symptoms, such as a dry cough, fever and night sweats, but say they don’t want to draw conclusions just yet.  

According to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, COVID-19 has seen a dramatic rise in South Africa’s cases from 344 each day on November 3, 2012 to 4,373 Tuesday.

Through genetic sequencing, less than 100 cases were confirmed to have Omicron-related links.

But, due to the rapid increase in infections, the U.S. decided not to lift the ban.

A total of 226 cases have so far been reported in 20 countries (including Canada and the UK), but none from the U.S. requested comment from the CDC, but they did not respond immediately. 

Officials hope this will help stop the spread of the Omicron variant, which was detected in Africa last week. Pictured:  Passenger arrive at Newark from Johannesburg on a United Airlines flight, November 27

Officials believe this will stop spread of Omicron variant which was discovered in Africa last week. Pictured:  Passenger arrive at Newark from Johannesburg on a United Airlines flight, November 27

So far, 226 cases of the variant have been identified in 20 countries around the world (above) but not the U.S.

226 instances of the variant have so far been found in 20 countries (below), but none in the U.S.

Seven direct flights have taken place from South Africa in the last week. There were three Delta Air Lines flights to Atlanta, and five United Airlines flights to Newark.

Airlines will need to give more than 2200 names if every seat is full.

It is not known how many people flew from South Africa to connect with South Africa.

The directive’s announcement comes one day after the director at the CDC stated that the agency’s biosurveillance programme is expanding to all airports. This includes those with direct flights to South Africa.

Three of the four airports – New York-John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and San Francisco International Airport in California –  have already been enrolled in the program but were expanded to survey for Omicron. 

Now, the program has been extended to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia. 

Walensky, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday said that testing and surveillance are expanding to four of the busiest airports internationally.

XpresCheck is a joint venture between the CDC and a company that offers COVID-19 testing for people aged 5 and over. It provides two types of tests: a quick test which gives results in 15 minutes, and a PCR test which gives results in one or three days.  

Walensky stated that the CDC was evaluating ways to ensure international travel is as safe and secure as possible. He also mentioned the importance of partner testing nearer to flights, and the considerations surrounding additional post-arriving testing and self-quarantine.

“This program permits for enhanced Covid testing of specific international arrivals. It increases our ability to identify COVID-19-positive individuals upon arrival in the United States, and enhances our surveillance for Omicron variant.