The Omicron variant has sparked new travel restrictions. Are more COVID rules ahead?

Written by on November 26, 2021

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What to learn about COVID-19 boosters: Pfizer, Moderna, J&J

FDA authorized COVID-19 boosters for adults who had Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at the least six months in the past and J&J at the least 2 months in the past.

USA TODAY

Thanksgiving air journey is approaching pre-pandemic ranges, america simply reopened to worldwide vacationers and summer season holidays to Europe are anticipated to soar in 2022.

Simply when issues had been wanting up for airways and the remainder of the journey trade, one other COVID-19 variant has emerged. The Omicron variant, first reported this week in South Africa and already surfacing in different international locations, immediately sparked restrictions on journey within the area.

The USA, which lifted a pandemic-long journey ban from dozens of worldwide international locations together with South Africa on Nov. 8, on Monday will reinstitute the ban for overseas nationals from eight African international locations. 

“We’ll be cautious, be certain there isn’t a journey to and from South Africa and 6 different international locations in that area. Aside from Americans who’re in a position to come again,” President Joe Biden stated Friday. “We do not know lots concerning the variant besides that it’s of nice concern. It appears to unfold quickly. I spent a couple of half hour this morning with my COVID group led by Dr. Fauci and that was the choice we made.” 

The president of the European Union Fee on Friday proposed a halt in air journey between the EU’s member states and southern Africa.

This is what vacationers must know concerning the new restrictions and the potential impression on journey within the months forward if the omicron variant spreads quickly throughout the globe. The World Well being Group on Friday labeled it a variant of concern. It additionally famous that in South Africa, omicron has been “detected at sooner charges than earlier surges in an infection.”

Does the White Home journey ban have an effect on U.S. vacationers?

U.S. residents and lawful everlasting residents are exempt from the African international locations ban. However as with all vacationers flying into america from a overseas nation, they might want to present a unfavorable COVID take a look at to board the flight – even when totally vaccinated.

The U.S. authorities hasn’t halted flights to or from the eight international locations. That does not imply airways will not cut back or droop flights to the area. United and Delta airways are the one two U.S. carriers providing flights to and from Africa., 

Delta Air Traces, which has three weekly flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg, South Africa, would not have any plans to regulate the service “presently.”

Vacationers from North America who need to change their flights can accomplish that with out ticket change charges, the airline stated.

“The well being and security of our workers and clients stays our high precedence,” the airline stated in an announcement. “Delta will proceed to work intently with our authorities companions to watch the brand new COVID-19 variant and any journey restrictions.”

United, which launched flights to Johannesburg and Accra earlier this 12 months and has plans to renew service to Cape City in December, stated it’s monitoring the state of affairs.

The CDC’s most up-to-date advisory stage for South Africa is stage 1, which implies low threat of COVID. However the CDC says vacationers needs to be totally vaccinated earlier than going. The State Division charges South Africa a stage 2, urging elevated warning when touring – however that is as a result of civil unrest and crime. 

These are prone to be revisited within the wake of the omicron variant.

I am not going to Africa however produce other journey plans. Will omicron change the foundations? 

For now, the journey implications from the brand new Omicron variant are restricted. particularly for U.S. vacationers. Nevertheless it’s early. The variant was solely reported the day earlier than Thanksgiving and if different phases of the pandemic are any indication, journey restrictions can shortly broaden as instances and considerations develop.

In February 2020, earlier than a pandemic was declared, the federal government and airways had been primarily centered on coronavirus sizzling spots like Italy. A month later, the worldwide journey ban overlaying greater than two dozen international locations was introduced. 

One main distinction as we speak, which till now has led to the easing of journey restrictions the world over: COVID-19 vaccination charges. Well being officers will likely be intently learning the vaccine’s effectiveness towards the brand new variant.

Airways for America, the lobbying group for the U.S. airline trade, is speaking to the federal government concerning the specifics of worldwide journey restrictions and stated there are “many unanswered questions,” in response to an announcement from spokesman Carter Yang.

“Amid this this quickly evolving state of affairs, it’s vital that U.S. authorities choices relating to worldwide journey restrictions and necessities be rooted in science,” the assertion stated.

Vacationers also needs to be on the look out for any broad adjustments in journey steering from the CDC. The CDC’s present steering for worldwide journey is just that U.S. vacationers needs to be totally vaccinated; for home journey it advises that folks delay journey till totally vaccinated but when they do journey to get examined earlier than the journey and take a look at and quarantine after the journey, amongst different security measures.

Will the brand new COVID variant result in a vaccine mandate for flights inside the US?

All through the pandemic, there have been requires tighter restrictions on flights inside america. The trouble was initially centered on obligatory pre-flight coronavirus testing, however airways defeated that.

As vaccines have grow to be out there, the main focus has shifted to requiring passengers to be vaccinated to board a home flight. That effort has garnered headlines however no formal motion. U.S. Division of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttiegieg 

Defeating COVID-19: Biden ought to require vaccine to fly.

‘Flying is already protected’: Do not burden airline passengers with vaccine mandate O

If the omicron variant spreads quickly, that’s prone to proceed requires a home vaccine mandate for air vacationers.

For now, vacationers don’t want to indicate proof of vaccine or a unfavorable COVID take a look at to board a flight inside america. One state, Hawaii, does require vaccine proof or a unfavorable COVID take a look at to bypass the holiday locations strict quarantine upon arrival. A number of well-liked trip locations exterior the US even have entry necessities.

The masks mandate on planes  is because of finish in January. Will the omicron variant change that?

The federal masks mandate on public transportation, together with airplanes and at airports, is because of expire on Jan. 18.

Will it’s prolonged once more if the brand new variant spreads extensively?

That is not out of the query. The Transportation Safety Administration introduced the newest extension of the mandate in August—  it was as a result of expire Sept. 13 at that time — because the extremely contagious delta variant was sweeping throughout the nation.

It got here after the CDC really useful carrying masks indoors once more whether or not vaccinated or unvaccinated because of the delta variant.

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