- How will the omicron variant and new red list affect my next holiday?
- The quickest, easiest and cheapest Day 2 PCR tests for travel
- The dilemmas facing skiers this winter
- ’I was told to expect masks and Covid caution in New York – but what I saw shocked me’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”