Background: On Monday, the Biden administration banned travel from South Africa, which first reported the new variant, as well as Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi and from neighboring Mozambique. But there have been indications that the variant may have originated in Europe, raising the question of whether the United States may once again shut down flights from Europe, just weeks after they were lifted.
Even though the world trying to tackle the new threat, Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, said US travel mitigation measures offer strong protections in addition to standard recommendations and practices – wearing masks, vaccination and other tools – for the American public.
Walensky on Tuesday touted pre-departure travel actions, such as testing before boarding a flight. Coupled with “international travel policies that have helped keep Americans safe as well as our genomic surveillance system,” these measures will help detect Omicron “if and when this happens” in the United States, she said. .
Separately, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the same applies to the Canadian border, which reopened to fully vaccinated foreign travelers earlier this month.
“The president’s decisions related to travel restrictions will be based on recommendations from his health and medical team, they did not advise [closing the border] at this point, ”she said. “But we will continue to assess the steps we need to take.”
WHO Opinion: Meanwhile, the World Health Organization, which named Omicron a “variant of concern” on November 26, has recommended foreign travelers aged 60 and over to stay home if they are not vaccinated or if they are at increased risk due to other health problems.
“People who have not been fully vaccinated or have no evidence of previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 and who are at increased risk of developing serious illness and dying, including people with 60 years of age or older or those with co-morbidities that present an increased risk of severe COVID-19 (eg, heart disease, cancer and diabetes) should be advised to postpone travel to areas of community transmission, ”said the organization.
Julian Sorapuru contributed to this report.