CDC orders airlines to turn over data on passengers from southern Africa

The agency reportedly plans to share the information with local and state public health officials.

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Travelers exit the International Arrivals area at Dulles International Airport
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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a directive on Tuesday that requires airlines to turn over the names and contact information of passengers who recently flew to the US from eight countries in southern Africa.

The directive, which was first reported by Reuters on Wednesday, comes amid concerns over the new omicron variant of COVID-19, which has been detected in more than 20 countries. Last week, the World Health Organization said the variant was "concerning" after it was identified in South Africa on Nov. 24. 

The CDC reportedly plans to share the collected passenger data with state and local public health officials. 

travel ban, which was ordered by President Joe Biden and kicked in on Monday, bars nearly all foreign travelers from eight countries in southern Africa. Biden said the "precautionary measure" will be in place until more is known about the omicron variant. 

The CDC is seeking contact information for travelers who within 14 days have been to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Those are the same countries impacted by the US travel restrictions. 

In October, the CDC ordered airlines to start collecting contact information on passengers before their arrival to the US from a foreign country. Airlines are required to hold onto that information for 30 days and turn it over to the CDC upon request.

The letter that the CDC sent to airlines on Tuesday cites the emergence of the omicron variant as the reason for the latest directive, according to Reuters. Airlines are required to turn over data to the CDC within 24 hours, unless it's already been transmitted to the Department of Homeland Security.