TravelPrep is here! Important safety information direct to travellers

January 27, 2022 / Riskline Informer

The Omicron variant: Life goes on

While the Omicron COVID-19 variant has spurred another global outbreak wave less than a year after Delta, the milder effects of the strain, particularly on fully vaccinated individuals, means that global travel and the economy may recover quicker this time around.

By Ramya Dilipkumar

Introduction

On 26 November 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the emergence of Omicron as a COVID-19 variant of concern after being notified by South African scientists, less than a year after the Delta variant took the world by storm. Within three months, Omicron was detected in more than 145 countries, and is the dominant variant in many, including the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), Denmark, Portugal, Australia, the Netherlands and parts of Canada, as of January 2022.

According to a Danish study, Omicron was found to be around 3.7 times more infectious than Delta among fully vaccinated individuals. However, Omicron is also proving to be much less fatal and severe than Delta. For example, in South Africa, 10,000 excess deaths were attributed to Omicron in early January, while in the previous wave of outbreak in the country, around 110,000 fatalities were attributed to Delta.

High fever and severe respiratory illness are less prevalent among most Omicron patients who are fully vaccinated with no prior illness, when compared with Delta patients. Omicron primarily attacks the upper respiratory tract rather than the lungs, as Delta does. While these characteristics have reduced the severity of illness, both this and the sheer infectiousness of Omicron means it is also more likely to affect children than Delta.

As a result of Omicron, international border restrictions, particularly pre-departure testing and quarantine measures, have been tightened globally, but not to the extent seen in 2021 during Delta variant surges. Governments in many countries with high levels of community transmission of Omicron like the US, UK, Israel, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany, have also avoided prolonged lockdowns as seen during the peak of the Delta variant in 2021, which paints a slightly optimistic picture for global economic recovery and travel going forward in 2022.

Future of global travel and economic recovery

While travel bans by individual countries initially targeted mostly travellers from Southern Africa in late 2021, by early 2022, these bans were reversed and border restrictions by most countries including the US, Brazil, Canada, Australia, India, Israel, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hong Kong, European Union (EU), Kuwait, Japan and New Zealand now target a broader section of international travellers, given the global spread of Omicron.

Countries including the US, EU countries, UAE, Pakistan, Taiwan and China have expanded travel-related testing and vaccine passport mandates to try and control the spread of imported infections in the community. China, for instance, tightened testing measures in mid-January, such that travellers to the country from most other major ones, including the US, Australia, South Korea and Japan must go through at least two pre-departure tests in their respective cities of departure.

However, authorities in most countries have maintained the relaxed quarantine measures for fully vaccinated travellers that were introduced in late 2021. There are no quarantine restrictions for travellers to the US, for example. In Australia, incoming fully vaccinated travellers to New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Victoria, need to only self-isolate for 24 hours until they test negative, while this requirement has been altogether removed in Tasmania.

Omicron has certainly put a damper on international travel, with airlines such as Lufthansa and Brussels Airlines flying near-empty flights daily in Europe. The most disruptive impact of Omicron on travel has been so many transport workers getting sick all at once from and having to self-isolate until testing negative. In the US, hundreds of flights have been cancelled daily since November 2021, due to a combination of staff shortages and winter weather. In the UK and Australia, many rail lines have eliminated service outside peak hours as well due to mass sick call-outs.

Many countries like Chile, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have postponed plans to further reopen their international borders to non-essential travellers. Border restrictions and flight cancellations will continue in the near-term in countries experiencing an outbreak. However, a survey by the Global Business Travel Association indicates that 75 percent of their participants (travel managers and procurement professionals) surveyed expected their organisations’ business travel volumes to increase this year from 2021 levels.

As far as internal restrictions go, countries have accepted that living with community transmission of COVID-19 is the new normal. Vaccination is the best bet against even new variants like OmicronOmicron driven mass outbreaks seem to be much shorter or less severe in countries with high levels of vaccination, compared with prolonged outbreaks witnessed due to Delta in 2021; recovery from Omicron among fully vaccinated people with no previously known ailments is also quicker. For instance, a month and a half after Omicron was first detected in South Africa, infections in the country peaked by late December and started reducing by early January 2022, along with hospitalisations. Cases have also started dipping in North America and Europe as of mid-January.

The most direct economic impacts of Omicron on countries’ economies are concentrated on hospitals and schools, and to a lesser extent, supply chains. Schools are again closing for extended periods and hospitals are deferring non-urgent care in North America and parts of Oceania, especially, due to the scale of the Omicron outbreak. (Goods shortages, however, are not expected to approach the same levels seen in 2020.)

Many countries including South Africa, Brazil, US, UK, Israel, Germany and New Zealand, have almost fully reopened their economies and rely on social distancing measures and COVID-19 vaccine passes implemented at most offices and commercial venues. Others like the Netherlands, India, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Pakistan where the Delta variant is also active or vaccination rates are not high enough, have opted for shorter or localised lockdowns.

The isolation period for in-country residents who test positive and their close contacts in many countries including India, Belgium and Australia has been shortened to seven days or less from 14, which means that economic activities do not stop where vaccinated people with milder symptoms can return to work sooner. Countries globally have started bringing forward the dates for vaccine boosters, a trend which is likely to continue for a foreseeable future. Another promising development is regulatory approval for new antiviral pills doctors can fill through pharmacies to treat early-stage COVID-19 cases.

Summary

While further outbreaks triggered by new variants cannot be ruled out, countries are now better equipped to handle them thanks to increasing rates of vaccination which bring down the severity of illness and fatalities. Scientists are optimistic that COVID-19 will eventually move to the endemic stage, and until then, ad hoc border restrictions are likely to continue even as countries push forward with their economic recovery plans.

Ramya Dilipkumar is an Australia-based political and security risk analyst.

Share This
Continue Reading

Travel chaos in Europe

Optimism surrounding air travel in Europe following the relaxation of COVID-19 rules has dampened as staff shortages and industrial action have resulted in mass flight cancellations and other disruptions.

Read more

Protect your organisation’s assets

Complement your expertise with our comprehensive risk reports
You can concentrate on protection strategies because we’ve already done the initial research. Riskline has risk reports for over 225 countries and regions around the world, and city safety reports for over 250 cities. We follow developments around the world everyday so you can stay focused on protecting your assets.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Power your data-driven insurance

Risk intelligence that helps you manage loss ratios and generate new revenue
Improve the accuracy of your underwriting and dynamic pricing models with our suite of destination risk reports and 24/7 global alerts. We follow developments around the world everyday so you can take comfort that your product decisions reflect up-to-date risk information. Our data can also be integrated as a value-added service by providing pre-travel advice and risk alerts that keep customers updated wherever they are in the world.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Manage COVID-19 disruptions

Your single trusted source for COVID-19 risk and restrictions around the globe
Stay updated with our up-to-the-minute information on testing, vaccination and quarantine requirements, COVID-19 infection rates and trends, and local restrictions. You can easily integrate our data directly into your systems through our dedicated COVID-19 API and TravelCheck widget, or get detailed reports in one place through the Microsite.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Offer travellers vital trip information

Offer your clients a full package of travel services
You’re the experts in bookings, itineraries and expenses, let our experts take care of destination risk assessments and real-time travel alerts. In this increasingly volatile world, you can offer your customers the best view of where it’s safe for them to travel, and what to expect on their trip.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Make decisions quickly with verified information

Ensure duty of care for employees and stay updated
When responding to a crisis you want to stay up-to-date with accurate information. We take care of providing up-to-date risk alerts so you can focus on planning and acting. Our destination risk reports ensure your employees are well prepared when they travel to high-risk areas, with detailed analysis of on-the-ground risks and baseline operating conditions.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Travellers are safer when they stay informed

Riskline Alert Messaging operates all day, every day. Each alert contains essential intelligence, practical advice and precise geographic data about risks to traveller safety or impacts on travel plans. When we are able to get advanced warning, notices are also issued for events happening in the future.
Riskline Informer
Keep informed of key developments around the world.

Helping travellers manage Covid-19 disruptions

We have closely tracked developments associated with COVID-19 since late 2019, gathering detailed information on entry and exit requirements, You can get our real-time COVID-19 intelligence via alerts, API, microsite, and the TravelCheck widget.
Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Risk ratings you can build a travel policy around

Riskline has detailed assessments for more than 225 countries and territories around the world. Each report has an easy-to-understand Risk Level™ that can be integrated into travel policies and other business operations. Risk assessments include an overview of the security and travel safety situation in a country, and detailed analysis of the political, terrorism, conflict, unrest, crime, natural, health and local transport risks.
Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Know more about where you actually go

We assess the safety of more than 250 global cities, assigning each a clear Risk Level. In addition to city-specific threats and other local knowledge, every report has a map of important locations down to street level.
Use Cases
See how our City Safety Reports can help keep your travellers safe.

People make better decisions when they have the full picture

Advisories are detailed assessments of ongoing security situations and travel issues. We publish reports for high-risk geographic areas, political and security crises, persisting travel disruptions and major upcoming events, such as elections and international sporting competitions.
Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Everything your travellers need to know before they travel

Riskline’s TravelPrep provides important safety information directly to travellers, empowering them to travel safer and smarter.
Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Get prepared before you travel

Riskline Pre-Travel Advisories (PTAs) are exactly what a traveller needs to know about their destination before they leave home. Each report is a concise summary of the security and travel safety situation for any destination, and can be sent straight to travellers’ emails.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

The right guidance for specific needs

Not all travellers are the same. Riskline’s Specific Traveller Advice includes country-specific information tailored for LGBTQ+ travellers, female travellers and tech-dependent travellers.

Riskline Informer
Keep informed of key developments around the world.

Covid-19 travel advice at your fingertips

Don’t let COVID-19 confusion get in the way of your customers’ decisions. Give them a tool at their fingertips that lets them see the implications of Covid on their travel plans and how best to prepare for their trip. TravelCheck displays up to date risk and infection scores, at-a-glance information on their destination and need-to-know information on departure, in-flight and arrival.

It’s easy to customise your widget with your own brand colour and poster image, to seamlessly integrate it into your website.

Our simple Javascript installation will get you up and running in no time. A few lines of code is all it takes to install the widget, with 2 display modes available – inline for embedding into a single page, or modal for a floating, site-wide travel assistant.

Interested in trying our TravelCheck widget? Get in touch.

Keep Informed

Get the latest Riskline Informer news delivered to your inbox.

Cookies

We use cookies to improve our services.
Find out more