New Fast Spreading Variant Has Countries Closing Borders And Enacting Travel Restrictions

New Fast Spreading Variant Has Countries Closing Borders And Enacting Travel Restrictions

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A new COVID-19 variant—which the WHO has called Omicron—is causing panic among the travel industry, creating travel restrictions, and closing borders. 

The United Kingdom says the COVID-19 variant is the most significant variant found and called the travel restrictions “a huge international concern.”

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The CDC says they need more data on the new COVID-19 variant but have already banned entry into the U.S. from 8 countries. However, authorities found the first European case of the new variant in Belgium today. 

The New Variant 

Although there is still little data on the new variant, scientists believe the B.1.1.529 variant started in South Africa before spreading around parts of Africa, Hong Kong, and now Belgium. 

Scientists are worried because the variant has over 30 mutations on its spike protein, which is the key used to unlock our body’s cells. That’s more than double the number of the Delta variant. 

As a result, scientists are concerned the new variant—which differs completely from the variant found in Wuhan almost two years ago—may evade the vaccines.

Women covering her face with pollution mask for protection

Scientists suggest, based on previous evidence, the variant could be more likely to infect and reinfect people with immunity to earlier variants. 

Prof James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at Oxford University, stated, “It’s bad news, but it’s not doomsday”.

The New Travel Restrictions 

As the news of the new variant spreads worldwide, travel restrictions are emerging. It’s a devastating blow to the travel industry, which had hoped for a sharp recovery this winter until spiraling cases in Europe and the emergence of the new variant. 

The following nations have already placed a ban or restrictions on travel from much of southern Africa:

Italy 

Italy announced measures to ban entry into Italy for travelers coming from the following countries:

  • South Africa
  • Lesotho 
  • Botswana 
  • Zimbabwe 
  • Mozambique 
  • Namibia 
  • Eswatini

Germany  

Germany Health Minister, Jens Spahn, said airlines arriving from South Africa will only be able to transport German citizens home.

Once they arrive in Germany, they will need to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of their vaccination status 

The European Union 

The EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she’s proposing implementing restrictions “with the member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region.” 

However, as of today, the EU has taken no action on banning flights from southern Africa to the EU. 

The United Kingdom 

The U.K. has already started limiting flights from the following nations:

  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Namibia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Lesotho
  • Eswatini

Travelers from these nations will need to self-isolate under hotel quarantine for 10 days in the U.K. after 4 am GMT on Sunday regardless of their vaccination status. The quarantine costs over 2,000 GBP.

Stonehenge, England

The United States 

The United States is set to heavily restrict travel from South Africa and 7 other Southern African countries. Beginning Monday, only US citizens and legal residents will be able to travel into the US from the countries.

NYC in winter

Japan 

Japan has restricted travel from the following countries because of the emergence of the new variant:

  • Botswana
  • Eswatini
  • Lesotho
  • Namibia
  • South Africa 
  • Zimbabwe

Travelers from these nations will need to spend 14 days in a government-designated facility followed by a further four days in quarantine at home. 

Tokyo, Japan

The Travel Industry Response 

The new variant and the subsequent travel restrictions have prompted a significant drop in Boeing shares overnight. 

Virgin Atlantic said it would cancel all flights from Johannesburg from Friday to early Sunday because of the UK’s new rules.

Delta Airlines said, “Delta will continue to work closely with our government partners to evaluate any changes to U.S. policy,”

Read more:

UK Restarts Travel ‘Red List’ Adding Several African Countries Over New Variant Concerns

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories


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