Travel ban leaves American family stuck in South Africa


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A dream vacation for one North Carolina family has now turned into a fight to get on flights headed home as more international travel restrictions are put in place to stop the spread of the new omicron coronavirus variant.

Lauren Kennedy Brady, a Raleigh, North Carolina, resident, said it’s been a longtime goal to travel to Africa, but the COVID-19 pandemic stalled her original plans last year.

“We have for many, many years talked about, that we all had on our bucket list a trip to Africa,” Brady said. “We’ve been waiting all this time, you know, 20 months or so, to take this trip and here we are.”

But as Brady, her mother, daughter and niece went to leave South Africa on Friday, flight cancellations amid a new coronavirus variant kept the family in Johannesburg.

The family is constantly looking for flights to connect back to the United States.

“We went from having two flights to zero flights and then after that we booked, I don’t know, we probably booked 10 flights in total,” Brady said. “It hit us like a ton of bricks and, of course, every other traveler is going through this right now. Those borders just slammed shut and it has wreaked a lot of havoc, clearly, and a lot of confusion.”

The omicron variant, which was first discovered in South Africa, has led world leaders to restrict travel from the area.

President Joe Biden announced a ban on entry to the United States from South Africa and seven other surrounding countries starting Monday, but it allows for Americans to return.

However, Brady said that’s easier said than done with existing travel restrictions going into place in several European countries.

“There’s not supposed to be a travel ban for American citizens, yet we are unable to travel — it’s a little bit of a catch-22,” Brady said.

Brady said her family is vaccinated, and they have all recently tested negative for COVID-19, but she still plans to lay low until they can find a flight.

“We’re going to protect ourselves for the next few days while we’re waiting for a flight. We’re sort of going to hold up in our a little hotel room here,” Brady said.

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