World News

The latest travel guidance: WHO recommends those at-risk, over 60 pause travel

Posted December 1, 2021 12:28 p.m. EST
Updated December 1, 2021 1:23 p.m. EST

President Joe Biden is expected to announce Thursday new travel bans to help stop the spread of the latest coronavirus variant, omicron.

Travelers arriving into the United States — including those who live in the United States — must provide proof of a negative coronavirus test a day before traveling. In some instances, the government would require travelers quarantine for seven days.

So far, the newest variant has been found in at least 19 counties and territories — most recently Japan and Brazil.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it planned to toughen coronavirus testing and screening of people flying to the United States, by requiring all international passengers to provide a negative result from a test taken within 24 hours of departure.

“CDC is working to modify the current global testing order for travel as we learn more about the omicron variant,” said an agency spokesperson, Jason McDonald.

Little is known about the latest coronavirus variant, which has caused some industry leaders to push back on the latest travel ban.

Roger Dow, CEO of the US Travel Association, is questioning the logic of President Joe Biden's travel restrictions, imposed on South Africa and seven neighboring countries following the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

"We want them to revisit this quickly," Dow told CNN in a phone interview. "We need to follow the science — and a travel ban is not the most effective way."

The World Health Organization said recommends that people who are sick, immunocompromised, have comorbities such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, or people who are over the age of 60 — “should be advised to postpone travel.”

In addition, the United Kingdom has taken the United States off its list of safe places to travel. Unvaccinated travelers from the U.S. should do their research before arriving in the UK.

Mutations in the omicron variant strongly suggest that it is more contagious than previous forms of the virus, scientists say. They caution that they cannot be sure without more testing and data, but the evidence so far is sobering.

"I think we'll get some information on transmissibility and severity in the coming days, maybe a week or two," Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 technical lead with the World Health Organization, told CNN News. "I do think it will take some time for us to get a better understanding of the impact on vaccines."

Health officials are concerned that the current rules, which allow fully vaccinated people to take a test up to three days before departing on a flight to the United States, might not be stringent enough.

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