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When the Omicron strain of COVID-19 was identified last week, it drew global attention, forcing governments throughout the globe to halt international travel to and from Southern African nations, where it originated.
The United Kingdom has already revised its admission rules for all overseas passengers, demanding a stringent testing system as well as a period of self-isolation. The Omicron variant is being screened for among foreign visitors at four of the country’s busiest airports, and the Biden administration has prolonged the mask mandate for government transit until March 2022, as well as additional COVID-19 testing requirements for incoming international travelers.
“This new variety is concerning, but not alarming. President Joe Biden said, “We anticipated there would be examples of Omicron here in the United States, and it’s here.” “However, we have the finest instruments available: the best vaccinations, medicine, and scientists in the world.”
The World Health Organization has issued an updated travel recommendation, advising all passengers over the age of 60, those who have not been vaccinated, and those with underlying health issues that might make COVID-19 more severe to postpone travel for the time being.
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Thus, what do we know so far about Omicron, and how will it impact your trip plans?
Dr. Eugene Delaune, MD, FACEP, is a Senior Medical Consultant at Allianz Travel Insurance and the Medical Director for SentinelMED. While the border limitations will help slow the spread of the Omicron variety, he thinks they will not prevent it from spreading globally.
“I expect the spread will occur despite of travel constraints, as it did with the Delta variation.” Indeed, when we learn more about Omicron and it is more frequently tested for, we will likely find that it has already spread to almost every corner of the globe,” Dr. Delaune added.
We don’t know much about the Omicron variation yet, including how effective our licensed vaccinations are against it, the severity of the variant in unvaccinated people and those who have recovered from other variants, and if it is more or less transmissible than other variants.
“It is the result of modifications to numerous regions of the virus particle in comparison to prior versions,” we know. While the virus remains the same, the ease with which it is spread, the symptoms it causes, and the efficiency of current vaccinations are all likely to alter, according to Dr. Delaune.
Dr. Delaune also said that the first research on the Omicron variation, including information on vaccination effectiveness, would be released in approximately a week. It might take up to a month to figure out exactly what we’re up against. He advises getting immunized and booster doses to protect oneself and others, particularly while traveling.
While there is no indication that the Omicron variation originated in Southern Africa, it does illustrate that vaccination disparity may rise to more worrisome mutations. Each time a virus spreads, it may mutate; the more it spreads, the greater the likelihood of new varieties, which may or may not be deadlier than the previous ones.
The vaccination rates in this area are among the lowest in the world, with Lesotho having the highest percentage of complete immunization among the nations now subject to the travel restriction at 27 percent. According to Our World in Data, Zambia has the lowest vaccination rate in Southern Africa, with just 3.3 percent of its people completely vaccinated.
“We must likewise vaccinate the rest of the globe,” she says “President Biden continued. “America has taken the lead in this endeavour and, in my opinion, will continue to do so. We’ve sent more vaccinations for free throughout the globe than all other countries combined: approximately 280 million vaccines have been distributed to 110 countries, including South Africa…”
The administration’s new COVID-19 winter plan also calls for the delivery of 200 million doses of vaccine to both nations in need of immunizations and displaced peoples over the next 100 days.
So, although we don’t know much about the Omicron version, we should anticipate tighter travel restrictions, at least in nations with more liberal rules toward foreign tourists.
Overall, the variation is concerning, but it is not a reason to abandon your forthcoming travel plans, particularly if they are domestic. International tourists should stay current on changing entry criteria and acquire travel insurance that covers cancellations due to COVID-19.
Check out this interactive resource to discover more about travel regulations throughout the globe.