As Europe begins another round of shutdowns due to the next COVID-19 virus strain, Omicron, U.S. citizens are looking for a way to push through the two-year malaise. Economically, we have been challenged like no other time in recent history. We’re still suffering from the logistical problems associated with a crippled supply chain. However, airline travel has been steadily rebounding, and Sunday was the busiest travel day at U.S. airports since February 2020.
With the discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant this past week, much like the Delta variant this past summer, recovery is now again threatened. The public and U.S. Government are closely watching European developments of the highly mutated Omicron strain, believed to have originated from South Africa.
South Africa has faced the daunting task of informing the world of the new COVID-19 variant. With a “disappointing response”, this reporting has proven to be a huge challenge for President Cyril Ramaphosa. Rather than receiving praise for the South African alarm signals, Ramaphoso says South Africa is being ostracized as most western nations are no longer accepting flights from South Africa. The closures are viewed as discriminatory by some, but the variant has found its way not only from Africa to Europe, but also Canada on Sunday. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, believes Omicron may already be in the U.S.
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that Omicron is a “variant of concern”. The WHO has not determined whether Omicron is more transmissible than other variants or even if it causes more severe problems than other variants. However, with perceived symptoms being more problematic and contagious, countries like Israel and Japan have shut their doors completely, while others have closed them to South Africa.
Globally, the public is frustrated and exhausted. Earlier this month, the Delta variant cases broke records in Germany, with the WHO warning of a new spread across Europe. Lockdowns were being considered and riots broke out in some locations due to new restrictions. Just recently, the U.S. and other countries have been re-opening international travel and the thought of renewed lockdowns and travel restrictions is unbearable for many travelers.
U.S. Policy on Omicron
Over concerns about the Omicron COVID-19 variant and to protect the health and security of our nation, the U.S. Government banned travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries on November 29. Delivering remarks later in the day, U.S. President Biden stated that the new Omicron COVID-19 variant “is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” and that “we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion.”
Stating that we have more tools to fight the variant than ever before, the President encouraged everyone to get free vaccinations at over 80,000 locations nationwide. Biden stated, “Do not wait. Go get your booster if it’s time for you to do so. And if you are not vaccinated, now is the time to go get vaccinated.” In an additional effort to calm the public, Dr. Fauci explained that stringent requirements are in place for international travel to the U.S. for both vaccination and testing – before entering the country.