Travel risk comes from what you do, not where you go, experts say as governments try to contain omicron variant :: WRAL.com

The discovery of a new variant of COVID-19 and the swift response from countries around the world to close their borders to some visitors could mean a further delay for those planning long-awaited trips.

While omicron’s travel restrictions do not apply to US citizens, WRAL News has heard of a family whose African safari turned into a logistical nightmare as they struggled to get home as they did so. even as new restrictions were announced.

Lauren Kennedy-Brady and her family ended their safari and were staying in Johannesburg, South Africa, waiting to board a return flight – a flight with a stopover in Paris – when the European Union announced that she would not take flights from South Africa. It didn’t matter that Kennedy-Brady and his family were American citizens with the ultimate destination of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The first leg of their trip was canceled, sending them scrambling to find a direct flight to the United States

“The game keeps changing, and we’re just trying to keep a cool head and keep our patience intact,” Kennedy-Brady said hours before he boarded a direct flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta.

President Biden has said there are no plans to extend restrictions on travel to the United States beyond eight countries in Africa. But that’s little solace for those holding international tickets for the holidays or until 2022.

Lauren Doyle, president of The Travel Mechanic, has been busy booking and re-booking dream getaways for clients as the rules and COVID risks change.

“We have no control over the opening, closing or anything of the borders, so we have to prepare,” she said.

Doyle is keeping a close eye on the latest travel restrictions and working with a couple who just booked a safari similar to the one Kennedy-Brady and his family took.

“They are spending two weeks all over South Africa doing things to do list type experiments,” she said. “We’ll have to see what happens.”

UNC Health’s Dr David Weber told WRAL News that travel restrictions will only slow omicron’s arrival in the United States.

“This is a delaying tactic. It will not prevent a possible transmission to the United States,” he said.

He urges travelers to take precautions whether they are going on safari or returning home for vacation.

“If you wear your mask and practice good protection then a lot of you will be safe. It’s what you do where you go that puts you at risk,” he said.

“It’s a risk,” Dolye said of the omicron variant, “but not a risk that you will let fear be your guide.”


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