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CDC requires airlines to share data about passengers traveling from southern Africa

Contact information for passengers traveling from eight southern African countries must be provided to the CDC within 24 hours after arriving in the U.S.
Image: Air China flight crew members in hazmat suits walk through the arrivals area at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles on Nov. 30, 2021.
Air China flight crew members in hazmat suits walk through the arrivals area at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday.Jae C. Hong / AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has directed airlines and aircraft operators to collect contact information for passengers entering the U.S. from several African countries, as concerns over the omicron variant of the coronavirus mount.

The guidance, which took effect Tuesday, affects passengers that have been in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Airlines and operators will have to share the contact information with the CDC for all passengers who had been in those countries within 14 days preceding their flight.

The so-called designated information must be transmitted to the CDC within 24 hours of arriving in the U.S., the order said.

“CDC is issuing this Directive to prevent the importation and spread of a communicable disease of public health importance,” the agency wrote. 

The required information includes the passenger's full name as it appears on a passport, birth date, an address while in the U.S., primary and emergency contact phone numbers and an email address, the CDC reported.

The CDC will share the data with state and local public health partners for follow-up, the CDC said in a letter to airlines.

"This follow-up may include recommendations for potential post arrival viral testing and quarantine and isolation," the agency told airlines.

The omicron variant, a highly mutated version of the coronavirus that has been labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization, was first detected by South African authorities on Nov. 24, but it is unclear where or when it may have originated.

The first known case of the omicron variant in the U.S. was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday.

The order comes after the Biden administration considered tightening requirements for international travel, a White House official told NBC News on Tuesday.

In remarks Monday, President Joe Biden called the variant “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”

Last week, the U.S. announced a travel ban on countries in southern Africa, which went into effect Monday, with an exemption for U.S. citizens and permanent residents and their family members. 

As of Tuesday, 33 countries, including the U.S., have issued new travel bans or restrictions in the wake of the new variant.