What to know about travel after the discovery of the omicron variant – Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts 2021-11-28 07:54:00 –


Cases of new variants have been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel, in addition to South Africa.

People are lining up for a flight to Paris in Air France on November 26, 2021 at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. The place where Omicron was first identified is scrambled to fight its lightning bolts throughout the country. Associated Press Photo / Jerome Delay

Governments around the world imposed travel bans and quarantine restrictions on Friday as a new coronavirus variant was discovered in South Africa this week, but health officials still assessed the seriousness of the threat. The emergence of variants classified as “Omicron” by the World Health Organization has caused confusion for some travelers and stranded others as the country scrambles to respond to the news. increase.

Starting Monday, the United States will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. This policy does not affect US citizens and permanent residents.

Here’s what travelers need to know about deployments:

Which country is ordering the ban

Shortly before the United States announced that it would limit travel from eight South African countries, European Union member states voted to order a travel ban for seven countries in the region. Canada has announced a similar ban that will come into effect on Friday for foreigners who have traveled to seven countries in southern Africa in the last 14 days.

The United Kingdom, France, Israel, and Japan have already sought restrictions or quarantine following announcements from South African health authorities that they have associated a new variant with a series of cases in Gauteng.

The Southern African Tourism Services Association has accused Britain of temporarily banning travelers from the region, calling the move a “kneeling decision” and punishing South Africa for finding the variant.

What travel experts recommend

As of Friday evening, South Africa’s travel advisory from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is Level 1 and represents a “low level” of domestic COVID-19 risk. About 24 percent of South Africa’s population is fully vaccinated. Travelers traveling domestically must show a negative result on a PCR test performed within 72 hours of departure.

Robert Merlin, Travel Advisor for SmartFlyer, said Friday that he was telling clients who booked a trip to Africa to sit firmly and wait for more information to appear before making any changes.

Merlin encourages travelers to make backup plans and suggests travel stacking as a potential strategy. He carefully follows the news about the latest information on Omicron variants and the consequent limitations of travelers, not only in Africa, but also in parts of the world experiencing a coronavirus surge like Europe. He said he needed to.

“It’s a very fluid situation,” he said. “If you’re going, you need to be flexible and understand that things can change.”

Poses Travel & Co, an affiliate of SmartFlyer. Amanda Poses, a travel advisor who owns the property, is on a family trip to South Africa and Botswana departing on December 17th. She is waiting for more facts before deciding whether to cancel or postpone the trip.

“I have hope, but I feel I can know more by the weekend,” Pose said in a text message. Pose wants to be in a better position to give immediate advice to clients, but she admits that it’s difficult to change bookings during the holidays.

“They are in a non-refundable period, so be careful for those traveling in the upcoming festive season,” she said. “Moreover, as far as I know, most travel insurance does not cover you if the border is closed.”

What health professionals are looking at

WHO said in a statement on Friday that it labeled Omicron as a “mutant of concern.” This is a classification specified only for the other four mutants. It also reminds the public of taking proven public health measures such as vaccination, wearing masks, maintaining hand hygiene, keeping social distances, avoiding crowds, and improving ventilation in indoor spaces. I was allowed to.

Chris Baylor, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the Washington Post on Friday that he has no plans to cancel his upcoming trip to South Africa, an emeritus professor at the University of Cape Town. Whether he changes his mind depends on what new research on Omicron shows. One clear benchmark is when scientists discover that a new variant has an antigenic escape capability. This means that current vaccines are not completely effective against it.

Mr. Baylor said the situation is difficult for countries to face, but said a travel ban may not be the solution.

“For example, attempts to use travel bans and restrictions on Delta did not work,” he said. “It’s just such an infectious virus, and it’s spread all over the world at an alarming rate.”

Cases of new variants have been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel, in addition to South Africa.

Beyrer warns that mandatory travel abroad should only be done by those who are fully vaccinated and boosted. People who live with unvaccinated children or who are at risk of severe COVID infection should also be more careful about traveling abroad.

Jonathan Baktari, e7Health’s lung and critical care expert and CEO, said pharmaceutical companies are creating the latest vaccines to enhance protection from Omicron, comparing how influenza vaccines are adjusted each year. I expect it to be necessary. Until then, he says, it’s probably better if travelers are fully vaccinated and boosted.

“We plan to add more of these variations,” says Baktari.

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