Covid omicron: restrictions and quarantines in European, Asian and American countries
Just as the world was slowly starting to go back to normal (except for the notoriously exception of the mask), a new covid variant has shut doors again. The new variant, B.1.1.529 or Omicron, is supposedly more contagious and may be resistant to vaccine immunization. Travel restrictions due to Omicron: what to do if you’re an expat
Is Omicron dangerous enough to close borders and restrict travel again? Travel restrictions due to Omicron: what to do if you’re an expat
The problem with the Omicron variant is it has accumulated more than one mutation that affects the core aspects of the original virus. Therefore, the concern is if vaccines will be able to stop Omicron, or if the mutations in the virus will imply having to redesign the vaccine or even create a new one.
As scientists admit, it is still too early to know for sure what consequences Omicron will have, both in coronavirus’s transmissibility and aggressivity.
The first findings reveal an ugly scenario.
The variant may be more transmissible and better able to evade the immune response from the body (whether that comes from having suffered covid previously or from the vaccine).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has publicly admitted Omicron is “a variant of concern”, but they have also stated that scientists need to investigate further to discern how dangerous covid mutation may be.
Why is the new covid called Omicron?
When covid started to mutate worldwide, journalists first called the variations by their country of origin.
But the WHO asked to name the new variations by greek letters instead of countries, to avoid offending or victimizing some countries because of their covid variants.
In fact, the World Health Organization has best practices for naming new diseases, and they try to avoid “causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups”.
This variant should have been called NU or XI, but WHO reported they skipped those two greek alphabet letters because NU sounded too similar to “new”, and XI is a prevalent surname.
What are the travel restrictions due to the Omicron variant worldwide?
Due to the uncertainty of how Omicron will affect people and how easy (or not) it will be spreading, most countries have taken a step back in loosening travel restrictions.
As for now, more than 30 countries have imposed travel bans, either to leave or enter their territory.
Be aware that these restrictions may change over time, so check official sources before planning to travel or to start working as an expat.
Omicron travel restrictions in Europe Travel restrictions due to Omicron: what to do if you’re an expat
In order to prevent Omicron coronavirus from spreading and protect European public, European Union countries have tightened travel restrictions, especially to enter their territories.
Travel restrictions to or from Spain Travel restrictions due to Omicron: what to do if you’re an expat
The Spanish Government is asking for a negative PCR test to all people travelling from high risk zones, even if they are vaccinated. Moreover, people arriving from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe will have to quarantine for 10 days.
It is possible to quarantine the seventh day if the traveller tests negative in a PCR test.
Besides, from 1st December, travellers from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland will be required to be fully vaccinated before entering the country.
Omicron variant restrictions in France
France has suspended all flights from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Eswatini. The French Government has also established protocols for people travelling from La Reunion and Mayotte.
Covid Omicron restrictions in Italy
Italy is restricting the arrival of people that have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini in the last 14 days.
New Covid variant restrictions in Germany
Germany’s policy to prevent Omicron variant from spreading has been to ban all flights from suspicious countries such as Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The
Travel restrictions due to Omicron in UK
The UK has added six countries to their “black list”: South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia. This means that UK and Irish citizens coming back from these six countries (or the other countries included in that list) must quarantine for 10 days in a hotel, even if they have been vaccinated.
People from other countries who have visited one of the countries in the list will not be allowed in the country at all.
As for other arrivals in the UK, everyone must now quarantine until the second day in the country they take a PCR test and the result comes back negative. Anyone testing positive will have to quarantine for ten days.
Omicron travel restrictions in Asia
Asian countries were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and opening borders to restart tourism… and lots of them are taking steps back due to the new covid variant.
India restricts travellers due to Omicron variant
Any international passenger willing to enter India will have to submit a self-declaration form, which will ask for a 14-day travel history and a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to entering the country.
People travelling from countries considered “at risk” will have to quarantine for seven days.
New Omicron variant travel restrictions in China
China has not modified its covid policy due to Omicron… probably because it already was one of the countries with the tightest travel restrictions. In fact, very few travellers are allowed in the country.
Japan bars all foreign visitors due to Omicron covid
From November 30, Japan’s borders are completely closed to non-Japanese travellers. International students, Japanese living abroad that visit their families or even short term residents are not allowed to enter the country.
Omicron coronavirus restrictions in Singapore
Singapore, as lots of countries around the world, is restricting arrivals from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
Non Singaporean travellers who have visited at least one of those countries will not be allowed to enter the country or even transiting in their airports.
Philippines and its restrictive measures to contain Omicron
Philippines are restricting arriving flights from those countries: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique.
Travel restrictions in Australia due to Omicron covid
After maintaining a strict covid policy (that led them to covid-zero), Australia had just opened international borders for their fully vaccinated citizens last month.
Now, Australian authorities have suspended all flights to and from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and Zimbabwe for at least 14 days. They have also banned foreigners with a travel history to these places.
A 14 day quarantine is required for people allowed to enter the country. Australian citizens and fully vaccinated people can quarantine at home, though the exact quarantine rules depend on the state.
Travel restrictions in America due to Omicron coronavirus
The new variant of coronavirus, Omicron, has hit hard countries all over the world, though in the States there haven’t been (yet) any new measures to prevent it. Keep reading to see travel restrictions in the US, Canada and Mexico.
Omicron travel policy in the United States
The United States have not yet unveiled the exact measures they will be taking to prevent the Omicron variant from spreading. President Joe Biden has said they will need to “be cautious”.
As reported by The Washington Post, a tightened testing window is coming, and some say Biden himself will be announcing new measures just before the new holiday travel period.
Travel restrictions in Canada to stop Omicron from spreading
Non-Canadians who have visited South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and/or Eswatini from November 12 will not be allowed to enter the country.
Canadian citizens or permanent residents who have been to one of those countries will not be barred, but must test negative prior to their flight to Canada, and will be required to take another virus test upon arrival. After that, they will quarantine at a hotel until they have confirmed a negative test result, and then quarantine at their residence for another 14 days.
Mexico’s measures and restrictions due to Omicron variant
Mexican health authorities have not yet reported any Omicron positive, and even the deputy health secretary has said restricting travel or closing borders is of little or no use in response to the new Omicron variant.
Therefore, Mexico is one of the countries that has not established any special protocol to prevent Omicron from spreading.
What to do if you plan to start working and living as an expat during Omicron restrictions?
The past two years have taught us to adapt ourselves to travelling restrictions and imminent changes in countries rules.
Now, with the Omicron variant spreading around the world and Governments taking -again- measures to control it, it may be necessary to make some adjustments before starting your journey as an expat.
Whether you are going to be an expat working for some international company or a digital nomad willing to travel the world, you need to check the restrictions in the country you’re about to make your home.
We would recommend that you check with the Health Department in your country of choice which are their requirements for expats working there. Once you have confirmed you can, in fact, move there, you need to check with the airlines.
It is also advisable to check local doctors, health insurances and be sure of what coverage will you be able to receive in case you needed it.
Finally, don’t forget about bureaucracy: if it usually is a pain in the rear to have all your papers ready, with covid restrictions it may be even worse. Check beforehand which formalities can be done in advance from your country of origin, or need to be made in person.
What to do if your flight is affected by the new omicron restrictions?
The possibilities will vary depending on who cancelled the flight.
If you decide it is too risky to travel, and want to cancel the flight even though the company is still flying there, you can ask for a refund, though the company is not legally forced to grant it.
Some airlines have announced they are going to make their change and cancel policies more flexible, which will allow passengers to change flights with little notice (even two hours prior to departure). Some airlines may charge you a fee, and others may even let you cancel the flight.
Omicron variant has hit hard on travelling when things were starting to go back to (almost) normal. We hope this guide will make it easy if you want to start your journey as an expat.
Want to stay up-to-date with more such information on travel for expats? Sign up for your Xpats priority access here.