New US travel restrictions are expected to go into effect on Monday as the World Health Organization says the new Omicron variant of COVID poses a “very high” global risk, and Chicago-based United Airlines said they are monitoring how the new restrictions move will affect flight demand.
The White House said in a statement Friday that the travel restriction would mean “no travel” to or from designated countries, except for returning US citizens and permanent residents who tested negative.
South Africa and seven neighboring countries are affected: Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
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Israel has also decided to ban the entry of foreigners and to order a quarantine for all Israelis arriving from abroad. And Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Monday that Japan was considering stepping up border controls.
In addition to the USA, the European Union is also announcing flight breaks to and from southern Africa due to the variant.
The new variant, which was first discovered in South Africa and classified as a “questionable variant”, has an increased risk of reinfection compared to other highly transmissible variants.
President Biden is expected to post an update with more information at 11:45 a.m. on Monday.
How the new travel restrictions affect United Airlines flights from the United States
In a statement to NBC 5, United Airlines says it is monitoring how the new travel restrictions will affect demand for flights, but says it has not adjusted its flight schedule.
Here are the flights United Airlines currently operates between the United States and the travel restriction areas:
- 5 flights per week between New York / Newark and Johannesburg
- 3 flights per week between Washington DC / Dulles and Accra, Ghana
A new maiden flight, maiden flight between Washington DC / Dulles and Lagos, Nigeria, will begin on Monday, November 29th, as planned.
United also plans to resume service between New York / New York / Newark and Cape Town on December 1st.
During Thanksgiving travel week, an estimated 1.2 million passengers were expected via O’Hare International Airport and 288,000 passengers via Midway.
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Do we know if the Omicron variant is available in the US?
Scientists in several locations – from Hong Kong to Europe to North America – have confirmed Omicron’s presence
According to the CDC, no cases of the Omicron variant have currently been reported in the United States. But scientists in multiple locations – from Hong Kong to Europe to North America – have confirmed Omicron’s presence, and officials are preparing for the variant to eventually arrive in the United States
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it is (already here),” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases. “We haven’t discovered it yet, but if you have a virus that shows this level of portability and you already have travel-related cases that have been detected in Israel and Belgium and other places … essentially going anywhere.”