Omicron Variant

Omicron Variant: What New U.S. Travel Restrictions Mean For United Airlines Flights

New travel restrictions take effect Monday between the U.S., South Africa and seven neighboring countries.

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New U.S. travel restrictions are set to take effect Monday as the World Health Organization says the new the new Omicron COVID variant poses a 'very high' global risk, and Chicago-based United Airlines said they are monitoring how the new restrictions will impact flight demand.

The White House said in a statement Friday that the travel restriction means “no travel” to or from the designated countries except for returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents who test negative.

The affected countries are South Africa, and seven neighboring countries: Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

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Israel also moved to ban entry by foreigners and mandate quarantine for all Israelis arriving from abroad. And Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday that Japan is considering stepping up border controls.

In addition to the United States, the European Union is also announcing pauses on flights to and from southern Africa as a result of the variant.

The new variant, first discovered in South Africa and classified as a 'variant of concern' has been shown to have an increased risk of reinfection compared to other highly transmissible variants.

President Biden is expected to provide an update Monday at 11:45 a.m. with more information.

How the new travel restrictions are affecting United Airlines flights out of the U.S.

In a statement to NBC 5, United Airlines says that it is monitoring how the new travel restrictions will impact demand for flights, but says that it has not made any adjustments to its schedule.

Here's are the flights that United Airlines currently operates between the U.S. and the travel restricted areas:

  • 5 flights per week between New York/Newark and Johannesburg
  • 3 flights per week between Washington D.C./Dulles and Accra, Ghana

A new, inaugural flight inaugural flight between Washington D.C./Dulles and Lagos, Nigeria will begin Monday, Nov. 29 as scheduled.

United also plans to restart service between New York/New York/Newark and Cape Town on Dec. 1.

Over the Thanksgiving travel week, 1.2 million passengers were expected to pass through O'Hare international airport, and 288,000 were expected to pass through Midway.

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Do we know if the Omicron variant is in the U.S.?

Scientists in several places — from Hong Kong to Europe to North America — have confirmed Omicron's presence

Currently, there have been no reported cases of the omicron variant in the United States, according to the CDC. But scientists in several places — from Hong Kong to Europe to North America — have confirmed Omicron's presence, and officials are preparing for the variant to eventually arrive in the U.S.

“I would not be surprised if it is (already here),” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. “We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you’re already having travel-related cases that they’ve noted in Israel and Belgium and other places…it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over.”

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