The United States is tightening travel rules as more countries secure borders to suppress Omicron

Passengers waiting in line inside the Newark Liberty International Airport terminal in Newark, New Jersey, USA, on November 24, 2021. REUTERS / Eduardo Munoz / File Photo

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  • Flying to the US to face tougher COVID-19 tests
  • Sydney is preparing for more cases, no lockdowns at the moment
  • Japan extends travel ban to some foreigners with residency status
  • WHO warns against general travel bans on Omicron
  • South Korea reports a daily record of over 5,000 COVID-19 cases

WASHINGTON / TOKYO, December 1 (Reuters) – Flights to the US will face tougher COVID-19 test rules, while several countries tightened their boundaries amid uncertainty over the virulence of the Omicron variant and its ability to evade vaccine protection .

Japan and Hong Kong said they would expand the travel edge, and Malaysia temporarily banned travelers from countries considered at risk. Japan, which had already barred all new foreign entrants, reported its second case of the new variant on Wednesday.

Other countries were preparing for several cases: Australia said at least two people visited several places in Sydney, while they were probably contagious, and Denmark said an infected person had attended a major concert.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said that “general travel bans will not prevent the international spread and they place a heavy burden on life and livelihood”, while advising the sick, at risk or 60 years or older and unvaccinated to postpone the trip.

Investors remained on edge on Wednesday, even as financial markets plunged a day earlier following remarks by the CEO of Moderna (MRNA.O), which raised questions about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against Omicron.

Global health officials have since offered insurances and repeated calls for people to be vaccinated.

“Our best form of defense is still our vaccines,” British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News.

“Of course it is possible, it is possible that it may be less effective. We just do not know for sure yet. But it is also very likely that it will remain effective against serious illness,” he said. Read more

European Medicines Agency Executive Director Emer Cooke previously said that laboratory tests should indicate over the next few weeks whether the blood of vaccinated humans has sufficient antibodies to neutralize the new variant. Read more

The European Union accelerated the start of its vaccine rollout for five-to-11-year-olds by one week to 13 December.

BioNTech’s CEO said the vaccine it manufactures in partnership with Pfizer (PFE.N) is likely to offer strong protection against serious illness from Omicron. Read more

The UK and US have both expanded their booster programs in response to the new variant.

First reported in southern Africa a week ago, Omicron has highlighted the difference between massive vaccination advances in rich countries and sparse inoculation in developing countries.

It has spread to more than a dozen countries, with Nigeria among the most recent to report cases of the variant. Saudi Arabia confirmed that the first case comes from a North African country.

About 56 countries reportedly implemented travel measures to protect themselves from Omicron on November 28, the WHO said. Read more

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was concerned that more member states were “introducing direct, general measures” which “will only exacerbate inequality”.

The World Health Organization classified Omicron as a “variant of concern” because of the number of mutations that can help it disperse or avoid antibodies from previous infection or vaccination.

RETURN CONTROL

The United States is moving to require all air travelers entering the country to show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late Tuesday. Read more

Currently, vaccinated international travelers can present a negative result obtained within three days from their place of departure. The new one-day test requirement would apply to U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals.

The administration is also considering whether to require travelers to get another test within three to five days of arrival, officials said.

The CDC lists about 80 foreign destinations as having “Level Four”, its highest level of COVID-19 transmission, and discourages Americans from traveling to these destinations.

In Asia, Japan said it would extend its entry ban to foreigners with residency status from 10 African countries.

Read more

Hong Kong extends its entry ban for non-residents to three more countries, Japan, Portugal and Sweden, from Friday.

South Korean Interior and Security Minister Jeon Hae-cheol called for tighter virus prevention measures to avert Omicron, following suspected cases coming in from Nigeria. The country has so far not detected any confirmed cases of Omicron.

Malaysia has temporarily banned travelers from countries that reported Omicron cases. Read more

Global airlines are preparing for new volatility, analysts said. Japanese airlines ANA and JAL said they were suspending new reservations for international flights to the country until the end of December. Read more

“It feels a bit like we’re back to where we were a year ago, and it’s not a big prospect for the industry and beyond,” Deidre Fulton, a partner at consulting firm MIDAS Aviation, said at an industry webinar.

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Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Sakura Murakami and Elaine Lies in Tokyo, Reju Jose and Jamie Freed in Sydney and Reuters agencies; Author by Himani Sarkar and Philippa Fletcher; Editing Shri Navratnam, William Maclean

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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