US set to impose travel restrictions as first omicron case confirmed

Asia's Tech News Daily

LAX airport – Mario Tama/Getty

    New travel restrictions are set to be enforced in the United States after the country’s first case of the omicron coronavirus variant is reported.

    The White House is said to be developing the US strategy to curb the spread of the virus over winter, with reports hinting that tougher pre-flight testing for international arrivals will be introduced, with the potential for further testing on arrival and self isolation.

    President Joe Biden is due to make a speech today to announce plans. Biden previously said the US will continue its fight against the virus “not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”

    The confirmed omicron case has been tracked to a fully vaccinated person in California, who arrived from South Africa last week and confirmed a positive test a week later. Airlines in the US have been told to disclose passenger information of recent arrivals from southern Africa.

    Under current rules anybody arriving into the US must take a viral test (such as a PCR) within 72 hours of boarding their flight. Health officials are expected to insist this time frame is squeezed to no more than 24 hours. Vaccinated Britons also now face tougher testing rules on their return home, when they must isolate until the result of a PCR test is confirmed, taken on or before day two.

    Follow the latest updates below.

    09:55 AM

    Dutch Covid-19 quarantine ends for most South Africa passengers

    Dutch health authorities said that more than 20 passengers who have been in quarantine since testing positive for Covid-19 after flying from South Africa on Nov. 26 will be allowed to leave on Thursday.

    A spokesman for the health authority for Kennemerland, in which Schiphol airport is situated, said authorities will not disclose whether any of the 14 passengers found to be infected with the omicron variant of the virus are being released, citing privacy reasons.

    They will also not disclose or discuss the seriousness of those patients' symptoms, the spokesman added, also citing privacy reasons.

    Authorities did say that a “large majority” of the 62 passengers who tested positive on the two flights had been vaccinated.

    “Persons that tested positive will remain in isolation. Their situation varies … some have symptoms, others don't or barely,” Kennemerland health director Bert van Velden said in a statement.

    09:45 AM

    The countries banning all travellers over the 'mild' omicron variant

    cancelled board

    Britain has added 10 African countries to its travel red list, and beefed up its testing requirements for overseas arrivals, a tactic copied by most EU countries and the likes of the US, Canada, India and Brazil.

    But other nations have reacted even more anxiously to the emergence of the omicron variant, with some closing their borders entirely.

    Japan, Israel and Morocco have announced border closures in response to the discovery of omicron. Find out which over countries are banning all travellers here.

    09:33 AM

    'It is too late for omicron restrictions – the horse has already bolted'

    Just as everyone was beginning to think it safe to go back in the water… along comes the curiously named omicron variant, writes Jeremy Warner.

    Is it of the Great White variety of shark, or a relatively harmless Reef? At this stage, nobody can say for sure, though the early signs are that it falls into the latter category.

    The South African virologist who discovered the variant has observed that although the mutation is unusual, its symptoms are mild. An optimistic view is that the more the virus mutates, the less potent it becomes. Armageddon or false alarm? We cannot yet know, but things are leaning towards the latter.

    09:21 AM

    In pictures: Coronavirus restrictions around the world

    fiji – TOURISM FIJI/AFP via Getty

    Tokyo – Koji Sasahara/AP

    underground – Kate Green/Anadolu Agency/Getty

    south africa – KIM LUDBROOK/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

    new zealand – Simon Watts/REUTERS

    09:10 AM

    US confirms first omicron case: everything we know

    The United States has announced its first confirmed case of the Covid-19 omicron variant had been detected in California, in a fully vaccinated traveler who had recently returned from South Africa and was recovering from mild symptoms.

    According to a statement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the person returned from South Africa on November 22, and their close contacts have all tested negative.

    Speaking to reporters, top health official Anthony Fauci said that the patient tested positive on November 29, and that they had not received a booster, to the best of his knowledge. “We feel good that this patient not only had mild symptoms, but actually the symptoms appear to be improving,” he said.

    Dr Fauci stressed a Covid booster remained a good idea because it raises the number of overall antibodies in a person's immune system, some of which will remain effective at stopping new variants. “Our experience with variants such as the Delta variant, is that even though the vaccine isn't specifically targeted to the Delta variant, when you get a high enough level of an immune response, you get spillover protection,” he said.

    08:56 AM

    How to get a Government-approved day two PCR test

    Anyone who enters the UK must take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arrival and self-isolate until they have received a negative result.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the measure in a press conference on November 27. Previously, travellers had the option of taking a cheaper lateral flow test.

    08:47 AM

    Spain bans unvaccinated British arrivals from today

    New travel rules come into force in Spain today. Travellers from the UK must be fully vaccinated to enter – entry with just a negative PCR test will no longer be possible.

    “The presence of new forms of the causative agent of the disease makes it necessary at this time to increase travel restrictions,” the department led by Fernando Grande-Marlasca, Minister of the Interior of Spain, announced at the weekend.

    The news comes as official statistics show the number of foreign tourists coming to Spain jumped five-fold in October from the same month a year ago to 5.13 million.

    The number of foreign tourists was still about two thirds the number in October 2019, when 7.59 million foreigners travelled to Spain.

    The ban on unvaccinated arrivals will remain until December 31 2021.

    Malaga airport – Carlos Gil/Getty

    08:37 AM

    Indonesia tightens travel curbs

    Restrictions at the Indonesian border have been tightened as the country braces to limit the spread of the omicron variant.

    Mandatory quarantine for all arrivals has been extended from seven days to 10 and there is now limited traffic allowed on toll roads to reduce people's movement.

    Indonesia has yet to announce the detection of omicron, but is stepping up measures to minimise the potential impact.

    “This policy… will be evaluated every now and then as we understand and continue digging more information about this new variant,” senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan said in a statement on Wednesday.

    08:31 AM

    In the spotlight: Coronavirus in the US

    With major news expected from the White House today, let’s take a look at the current coronavirus statistics in the United States:

    Are cases increasing?

    How many people are vaccianted?

    08:25 AM

    Italy considers bringing back masks outdoors

    The Italian government is reported to be considering making it compulsory to wear masks outdoors at all times in public.

    The government is “reflecting” on whether it needs to tighten the outdoor mask-wearing rules, Health Undersecretary Andrea Costa said in an interview on TV channel Rai1 on Tuesday.

    It comes a local authorities call on the Government to tighten rules as cases continue to rise in Italy and amid concerns over the omicron variant, detected for the first time in the country at the weekend.

    He noted that mask use is already mandatory outdoors in Italy “in cases where gatherings occur,” adding: “I realise there may be a need to emphasise this rule more clearly at such a delicate moment.”

    women wearing mask in italy – FLAVIO LO SCALZO/ REUTERS

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