Update (0900ET): More reports about the new CDC-recommended travel restrictions have hit on Wednesday as the Biden White House has all but confirmed its plans to impose new restrictions on travel despite the WHO's pleas that South Africa not be penalized for warning the world about the new variant.
To be sure, the restrictions being considered by the administration would still allow travelers with up-to-date COVID testing (within the last 24 hours) to enter the country. Presently, vaccinated travelers must get tested within three days of boarding their flight to the US.
According to Bloomberg, President Joe Biden plans to announce the new requirements on Thursday in a speech detailing his plans for containing the pandemic as the US heads into the winter. Keep in mind, more than one federal judge has already blocked Biden's attempt to impose a vaccine mandate on federal workers (and workers at America's largest companies).
The US isn't alone: Japan expanded its travel ban to include foreigners with resident status entering from 10 countries including South Africa, while it was separately reported that South Korea is considering conducting a COVID-19 variant test on all foreigners arriving in the country.
Furthermore, the new restrictions being considered in the US might also require new arrivals to get a second shot within 3 or 5 days after arrival. Some may also be required to quarantine for a week before they can travel freely in the country. This would be a first quarantine requirement imposed on travelers to the US at the federal level.
The WHO said on Tuesday that people who are not fully vaccinated or have not recovered from COVID, as well as people age 60 or older and those at high risk of severe illness from the virus, should postpone travel to places where the virus is spreading.
* * *
Fewer than 250 confirmed cases of the omicron variant have been recorded worldwide (although epidemiologists fear the number of cases caused by the variant could be much higher). But that isn't stopping the CDC, led by Rochelle Walensky - the same bureaucrat who admitted two months ago that COVID jabs "can't prevent transmission" of the virus - from pushing for tighter travel restrictions in an effort to "slow" the new variant's entry into the US.
President Joe Biden signaled that he would be taking the new variant seriously during a press conference yesterday where he delegated to Dr. Anthony Fauci multiple times. Dr. Fauci has seized the opportunity to bombard Americans with FUD related to the new strain.
Cases of the variant have been confirmed in Canada, and many believe it's only a matter of time before a case is confirmed in the US (even if the US were to close its borders to non-citizens again tomorrow).
CDC Dir. Walensky: "We don't know everything we need to know yet about the omicron variant, but we know that vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect yourself from severe illness and complications from all known SARS-CoV-2 variants to date." https://t.co/SNpGmVWFmu pic.twitter.com/TTHQVLsNHH— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) November 30, 2021
But instead of taking such drastic action, the CDC is looking at a handful of less intensive measures.
These include narrowing the testing window for travelers heading into the US, while adding quarantine requirements in certain cases, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday on a call with reporters. It’s also expanding surveillance programs at four major airports to test for the omicron variant, and just regular old COVID, from certain international arrivals.
In the meantime, Canada, which has just confirmed another case of the new variant, is reportedly adding Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt to the list of African countries where travelers are banned due to concerns about the new variant, the Toronto Star. The first cases of omicron were reported in travelers from Nigeria.
Walensky added that local health officials across the US are actively looking for the omicron variant. "Right now, there is no evidence of omicron in the United States...the delta variant remains the predominant circulating strain" she added.
She also warned that the CDC is "strengthening" its recommendation that all adults over 18 get their booster shots.
"Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot either when they are 6 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or 2 months after their initial J&J vaccine," she said.
Assuming the US does impose new travel restrictions, how much longer until Americans who don't have their boosters are treated as de facto unvaccinated? While those who haven't had any of their shots are treated like lepers.
A handful of countries - Israel, Morocco, Japan and South Korea - have closed off foreign travel while European nations shut their borders specifically to travelers from southern Africa. And a US governor has already declared a state of emergency without a single omicron case being confirmed. That all seems to contradict President Biden's insistence that the new variant is a "cause for concern, not panic".