Global efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus have been thwarted by the emergence of the Omicron variant. Countries that had only just recently eased their travel restrictions are now reimposing them. As of today, the Omicron variant has been detected globally. The Omicron surge is causing new concerns for travelers who just started putting trips back on their calendars. In this unpredictable climate, how can travelers protect themselves against Covid? What restrictions and requirements are countries now imposing? Read on to find out.
How Can Travelers Protect Themselves?
Plan & Pack Carefully
Travelers should expect the unexpected. They should not only prepare for flight delays, cancellations, and baggage mishaps, but also, Covid spikes in their destination countries and the possibility that they might contract the virus while traveling abroad. This doesnt mean that travelers should be worried; it just means they should be vigilant and alert when venturing beyond their home countrys borders. This is especially true in light of the Omicron variant. The speed at which the new variant is transmitted means that things could change with little to no notice. If a scheduled destination suffers a sudden surge in cases, travelers might need to adjust their itineraries. So, its a smart idea to have Plan B destinations or activities in mind. Strategize to avoid being in close quarters with large groups of people for long periods of time. When it comes to packing, remember extra face masks and hand sanitizer.
Quarantine before & after your travels
Though its not currently required, its a good idea to quarantine for a week leading up to your departure. Limiting your social contact before you travel lessens the likelihood that youll unknowingly contract and/or spread the virus. Upon returning to your home country quarantine might be mandatory. Ensure that you know the Covid safety protocols of your home country as well as your destination countries.
Follow the experts
Travelers should adhere to CDC guidelines before, after, and during their trip. Before departing, travelers should also confirm that destinations on their itinerary are following proper Covid safety protocol. This might include quarantining, testing, providing proof of vaccination or other documents as required by border authorities. Travelers are advised to keep an eye on developing news and alerts specific to their travel route.
Follow local or country-specific rules and requirements like additional Covid tests upon arrival and departure, mandatory quarantines, or specific travel documents required by the airlines, the destination country or the local authorities. Before departing for the trip, travelers should check with the applicable airline as well as medical authorities like the WHO or the CDC for the most up-to-date information.
More tips & advice for international travelers
Depending on their airlines and destination countries, international travelers should be prepared to do the following:
- Check the travel alerts and latest flight information on airline websites and authoritative country-and-state-specific sites based on the itinerary.
- Keep the Proof of Vaccination card ready to show to the airline, or local authorities.
- Be prepared to present proof of a recent negative Covid test ( RT-PCR). Depending on your airline and destination the requirement the test will need to be taken within 12 to 72 hours of boarding the plane.
- Have other country-specific documents such as a signed copy of self-declaration, ready.
- Expect to take covid tests not only upon arrival at the destination, but also at other times throughout your trip and return home.
- Adhere to mandatory quarantines at the destination. The length of which will depend on your destination country.
- Anticipate sudden changes to entry requirements.
- Plan for flight delays, cancelations and schedule changes.
- Be aware of the type of masks required by the airlines and the destinations. Some airlines no longer accept cloth coverings.
- Keep digital and paper copies of all your important papers and records.
- Carry some amount of currency from the destination country.
Travelers should be fully vaccinated
Many countries, including the U.S., now require foreign travelers to be fully vaccinated against Covid. But this alone isnt the only reason for travelers to get vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization and other leading medical authorities, readily available vaccines and boosters are effective in combating the virus. Not only are fully vaccinated people less likely to contract the virus, theyre also less likely to become hospitalized or to die from it. Though much is unknown about the Omicron, preliminary evidence suggests that vaccines also provide some protection against the strain.
Travel insurance can help manage your travel risks due to the Omicron variant
The new Omicron variant creates more challenges and anxieties for travelers. A suitable trip insurance plan with a Cancel For Any Reason benefit offers travelers not just financial protection, but also confidence and security should they decide to cancel their trip plans. If travel is necessary, travel medical insurance ensures that travelers will receive necessary medical care should they need it, for Covid, or any other illness, injury or emergency medical evacuation.
In the last few months many of our customers who have purchased trip plans also add a Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) option. Amid the uncertainties of the Omicron strain, the flexibility to cancel your travel plans for literally any reason has never been more valuable
A Travelers Country-by-Country Guide to Omicron
The highly-transmissible Omicron strain has prompted some of the worlds most populous countries to impose travel restrictions and requirements. Heres a country-specific guide to new travel restrictions and regulations put in place to stop the spread of Omicron.
In light of the Omicron strain of Covid, travelers to the US should consider the following:
- The U.S. currently restricts travel from: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi. The ban does not currently apply to U.S. citizens.
- The Centers for Disease Control has raised its travel advisory alert level to its highest level for each of these African countries. This means that the countrys leading health authority recommends that all U.S. citizens and permanent residents avoid travel to these countries.
- Inbound international passengers will need to be tested for COVID-19 within one day of departure, regardless of vaccination status. Prior to the Omicron cases, the time frame was within three days of departure.
- The mask mandate set to expire in January of 2022 will be extended until March 2022. The mandate requires passengers on all forms of public transit to wear face masks.
Due to the Omicron variant, travelers to Canada face the following restrictions:
- Any foreigners whove been in the following countries within two weeks of attempting to travel to Canada will be denied entry: Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
- Canadian citizens and permanent residents whove been to any of the countries listed above in the two weeks previous to returning home will face testing, screening and quarantine protocols.
- All fully vaccinated travelers arriving by air from anywhere other than the United States will be subject to arrival testing and quarantine measures.
Due to the emergence of the Omicron variant, travelers should consider the following:
- England has issued a new mask mandate in public indoor spaces as well as public transportation.
- Fully vaccinated travelers must quarantine and take a PCR test within two days of arriving in England. Once they produce a negative test result, travelers can leave isolation.
To slow the spread of Omicron, Irish officials have implemented the following restrictions:
- Ireland has banned travel from several African countries including Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The government advises citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to the countries.
- Irish citizens returning home from these countries will be required to quarantine at home and take two PCR tests during isolation.
- All foreign travelers, regardless of vaccination status, will need to provide a negative PCR test result taken within three days of arrival.
Morocco has temporarily closed its borders to all foreign air travel. Theres no official reopening date but as more becomes known about the Omicron variant, the country will determine a clearer timeline.
Once Israel recorded its first case of Omicron, it shut down immediately. Currently, no foreign travelers can enter the country. Israel banned all foreign nationals from traveling to the country.
Effective December 1, 2021, foreign travelers, regardless of vaccine status, must provide:
- A 14-day travel history
- A negative Covid test result taken within 72 hours before departing for India.
- Airlines require every passenger to complete a Self Declaration Form.
Beginning Friday, any travelers to Singapore will need to adhere to the following:
- Enhanced testing protocols.
- Foreigners entering the country will need to take a PCR test upon arrival.
- Those traveling within the country must present negative Covid test results as part of a pre-departure procedure.
After only three weeks of reopened borders, Japan has shut down again in an effort to stop the spread of the Omicron strain. As of Tuesday, all nonresident foreigners (this includes foreign workers and international students) are barred from entering the country. Japanese citizens and foreign residents are exempt from this ban.
After over 18 months of closed borders,Australiahad planned to reopen to eligible visa holders on December 1, 2021. In light of the Omicron variant, however, that timeline has been pushed back. More information on entry restrictions and requirements is expected as that date approaches.
There are many unknowns surrounding the Omicron variant, including what level of protection the current vaccines offer against it, and how deadly the variant is. One thing scientists do know for sure is that its highly transmissible. Before you travel, look for the most up-to-date information on the Omicron variant at the WHO or the CDC.