The White House is defending its decision to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other African nations, insisting the decision was not meant to punish those countries but protect Americans from the new omicron coronavirus variant. President Joe Biden Biden moved to restrict travel from those countries effective Monday in a bid to give scientists time to learn more about the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, which has not yet been detected in the United States. South African officials argued they are being punished for speedily identifying and reporting the new variant. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration "will continue to assess what steps we need to take to protect the American people." She also commended South Africa for discovering the new variant and quickly communicating it's existence to leaders across the globe.