By Tiffany Chan

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – Boston’s South African community is bracing for another isolating holiday season as the country halts flights coming from eight African countries.

It’s been two long years since Siphokazi Mangcu has seen her family in South Africa. The Cambridge woman planned to return with her two kids this Christmas until news of the latest travel ban disrupted her plans.

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“We just feel helpless. We’re helpless. We don’t know,” said Mangcu.

There’s uncertainty in when she’ll be able to return to her home country and how strong the Omicron variant is.

“It’s more than just cutting off flights,” Mangcu explained. “It has been two years. Christmas is the most depressing time for us. We have two kids, 4 and 13, who have been missing out their home experience.”

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President Biden said Monday that he hoped this travel ban will give Americans time to get vaccinated – whether for the first time or a booster.

Suffolk University Law student Roxanne Paans said it’s been a grueling year away from her native South Africa. She had been counting down the days to reunite with her family.

“It’s very disheartening to know they’ll be a family member down for the first of the season, Christmas – it’s just really sad,” said Paans. “It’s not ideal. But I think Zoom and Skype and Facetime makes things easier but I will obviously be here missing my family.”

With holiday plans in limbo, local South Africans have no choice but to cancel their flights and wait it out.

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“Vaccinating people. That’s what we need,” said Mangcu.

Tiffany Chan