Yesterday, the U.S. State Department cautioned all Americans traveling overseas that they “should make contingency plans” amid the global surge in COVID-19 infections caused by the Omicron variant.
Travel disruptions are on the rise, and not just in the U.S., where staffing shortages and severe weather conditions have caused thousands of flight cancellations over the past week, as millions of Americans attempt to fly for the end-of-year holidays.
In the roughly four weeks since Omicron was initially identified, nations around the world have been adjusting their entry restrictions and shutting out travelers from certain countries of origin. Thus far, there haven’t been sudden and severe border closures, such as occurred at the start of the pandemic, but Omicron’s unprecedented transmissibility is prompting tighter border controls.
“U.S. citizens who do choose to travel internationally should make contingency plans, as they may have to remain in a foreign country longer than originally planned, which will be at their own expense,” the State Department wrote in a media note Thursday, according to The Hill. “The Department recommends international travel insurance with coverage for COVID-related trip cancellation and medical benefits,” it continued.
It also cautioned travelers that foreign governments may have implemented additional COVID-19 measures or updated official guidance for visitors upon their arrival, in light of the complications caused by Omicron.
The department went on to issue a reminder that all Americans aged two years and older seeking to re-enter the U.S. following international trips are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of their U.S.-bound flight’s departure, regardless of their vaccination status.
Global health officials have lately disclosed that the Omicron variant first identified in South Africa at the end of November is, as initially suspected, highly contagious (even more so than the Delta variant), but that early data indicates that it causes less severe illness than previous strains, at least for those who are already vaccinated.
“We know now, incontrovertibly, that this is a highly, highly transmissible virus. We know that from the numbers we’re seeing,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House medical advisor and the nation’s leading immunologist, said Wednesday during a White House briefing, adding that, “all indications point to a lesser severity of Omicron versus Delta.”