What Travelers Need to Know About Omicron
December 15, 2021
Categories: COVID-19, Health, Safety, Travel Tips,
The omicron travel alerts came through fast and furious after the Thanksgiving holiday with many countries around the globe imposing entry bans, tightening border restrictions, and reinforcing social distancing measures due to the omicron variant.
If you’re planning travel and have questions about omicron, the new coronavirus variant, Global Rescue medical experts provide some background and advice.
What Is the Omicron Variant?
The World Health Organization (WHO) received a report of omicron (B.1.1.529) from South Africa on November 24 after an increase in infections. It was designated a variant of concern on November 26.
What Are Omicron Symptoms?
Delta, the predominant variant in the United States, was known for its rapid transmission, two times more contagious than other variants. Initial symptoms of the delta are cold-like: headache, sore throat, fever and runny nose.
Omicron is presenting with these symptoms: severe fatigue, headache, body aches and pain.
Overall, people have reported a wide range of symptoms with coronavirus and, in some cases, may not be able to tell the difference between COVID, allergies and the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
What Is Different About Omicron?
Omicron has an unusually high number of mutations — 30 in the key spike protein, the structure the virus uses to get into the cells they attack. Scientists are concerned this might make the variant more transmissible and early data appears to support this hypothesis.
“The good news is omicron appears to be less dangerous with fewer cases of severe illness and hospitalizations. There has also only been one death reported worldwide from Omicron,” said Daniel Richards, CEO of Global Rescue. “However, many unknowns remain, including whether those who contracted COVID and recovered could be more susceptible to catching it again with this variant. The coming weeks will be telling as we learn more about how omicron behaves.”
What Precautions Should Travelers Take This Holiday Season?
Global Rescue recommends following CDC guidelines, including staying the course with mask-wearing and social distancing.
“Always practice good personal hygiene, wash your hands regularly, and use a face mask in crowded social settings and public transportation,” said Adam Bardwell, medical operations supervisor at Global Rescue.
Of course, when you are ill, remain home. “If you are sick stay home, continue to isolate, minimize contact with others, contact your doctor, wear a mask and treat your body well,” he said.
“Living a healthy lifestyle by working out frequently and eating well can aid in building up your body’s immune system and can help minimize the symptoms of a virus or other ailment,” Bardwell said.
If you are considering travel, “go about your holiday season as you see fit. Do your research and form your own opinions. Verify your sources of information and plan your holiday for what you believe is right for your family. Disinformation, fear-mongering, and corporate interests will be plentiful when sifting through the vast amount of information in regards to COVID. The risk calculus is different for every family in the world and must be tailored to fit your family’s health/cultural needs,” said Bardwell.
Should I Add COVID Self-test Kits to My Coronavirus Travel Kit?
Rapid antigen self-test kits will probably be joining you for domestic and international travel this holiday season.
“Whether you are traveling to visit family or guests are joining you for the holiday, some states, like New Hampshire, are offering free test kits for their residents this holiday season,” Bardwell said.
If you are traveling internationally, new federal rules require a negative COVID test result within 24 hours of travel to the United States. Acceptable self-tests must be an antigen or nucleic acid amplification tests, have FDA EUA approval, and include a telehealth video call supervised by an authorized proctor who will issue a report confirming the results.
These test kits are small enough to fit in hand luggage. For U.S.-bound travelers, a negative result from the Abbott BinaxNOW self-testing COVID-19 kit fulfills the U.S. government requirement for boarding a commercial aircraft.
Travel Protection Services for COVID-19
According to the fall 2021 Global Rescue survey, although travelers are less concerned about travel now than they were earlier this year, the biggest travel fear (43% of respondents) is becoming ill with COVID or being quarantined far from home.
Fortunately, Global Rescue does not make any distinctions between COVID and other infectious diseases for our services. If members have questions related to COVID or become ill from the virus while traveling, our rescue and evacuation services still apply. This has been the case since the start of the pandemic and will continue to be until the end.
In addition, Global Rescue provides members with real-time travel advice, including COVID hotspots and variant information.
“Global Rescue will continue to monitor the situation closely and support the advisory, transport and evacuation needs of our members and clients who test positive for COVID-19 as we have since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Richards.
Bookmark Global Rescue’s blog page for educational blogs and our Coronavirus Weekly Update for coronavirus travel information.
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