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  • What Travelers Need to Know About Omicron

    The Omicron coronavirus variant is spreading worldwide and has recently been detected in the United States. With all of the uncertainties that come with the new variant, destinations around the globe have put new travel restrictions in place. Borders are closing to countries such as Japan, Israel, and numerous destinations in Europe, and travel has stopped from several countries in Africa.

    With closures happening and new restrictions in place, the Omicron variant has put some uncertainty into the minds of travelers, with many unsure as to how the variant might affect their upcoming travel plans. Some travelers aren’t sure if they’ll reach their destinations, while others are concerned about the rules and restrictions they might face once they arrive. If you’re someone who’s planning on traveling in the near future and want to learn more about Omicron, here’s what you need to know:

    When Was Omicron Discovered?

    The Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa in early November. According to CNBC, the variant was reported to the World Health Organization from South Africa on November 24, 2021, but the first sample of the variant can date back to November 9, 2021. Though the first sample of the variant can be traced back to November 9, scientists say that the variant may have been around a lot longer.

    Where Has Omicron Been Detected?

    The Omicron variant has been detected in various countries worldwide since it was first discovered in South Africa. As of December 3, 2021, the variant has been detected in the following countries:

    • Australia
    • Austria
    • Belgium
    • Botswana
    • Brazil
    • Canada
    • Czech Republic
    • Denmark
    • Finland
    • France
    • Germany
    • Ghana
    • Greece
    • Iceland
    • Ireland
    • Italy
    • Japan
    • Netherlands
    • Nigeria
    • Norway
    • Portugal
    • Saudi Arabia
    • South Africa
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • United Arab Emirates
    • The United Kingdom
    • The United States
    • Zimbabwe

    You can stay up to date with the latest information on where the Omicron variant has been detected here.

    What Countries Have Travel Restrictions in Place?

    Numerous countries around the globe have put travel restrictions in place due to the discovery of the Omicron variant. Countries that have decided to close their borders entirely include Japan, Israel, and numerous countries throughout Europe. While these countries have decided to close their borders to try and stop the spread of the new variant, other countries have decided to stop travel from several countries in Africa, including Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.

    You can see the complete list of countries with travel restrictions in place here.

    What Rules Do I Need to Follow When Returning to the United States?

    Anyone who is flying on a plane into the United States must continue to wear a mask throughout the duration of their flight, as well as throughout all U.S. airports.

    Due to the new Omicron variant, President Biden announced on December 3, 2021, that travelers who are entering the United States must provide proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within one day of departure, regardless of their vaccination status (starting December 6, 2021). 

    Will the COVID Vaccine Protect Me Against Omicron?

    As of December 3, 2021, it’s unclear whether or not the current covid vaccine will protect people from the new Omicron variant. Though there is not yet a clear answer as to whether or not the current vaccine will protect against the Omicron variant, vaccine manufacturers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are planning to reformulate their covid vaccine shots to help protect against the Omicron variant if needed, according to an article from The New York Times

    What Precautions Can I Take While Traveling?

    If you plan to travel in the near future, there are some precautions you should take to protect yourself and those around you. Some of the precautions you can take while traveling include washing your hands, sanitizing your frequently used items, keeping your distance from others, wearing a mask, and being respectful of those around you. Doing these things will give you the best chance of keeping yourself safe and healthy while on your travels.

    Where Can I Stay Up-to-Date With the Changing Travel Requirements?

    With the Omicron variant continuing to spread worldwide, we expect travel and entry requirements to be in flux for the next few months. You can stay up-to-date with ever-changing travel requirements by using the resources found in this blog.

    Where Can I Obtain a Passport For My Upcoming Travels?

    If you plan to travel in 2022 and are looking to obtain a passport, we highly recommend that you use our 4-10 week passport renewal service. We will monitor your passport throughout the entire process, and if there is a problem with your application, our team will work with you to resolve the issue right away. If you need to obtain a new passport, you can do so on the Swift website. Safe travels!

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