A new COVID variant called BA.2 is making its way through Europe and North America, causing some to fear that travel restrictions could return. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows BA.2, which is a subvariant of omicron, has been tripling in prevalence every two weeks. As of last week, BA.2 makes up 23.1% of all COVID cases in the U.S.
BA.2 was first discovered in Europe and has spread across the continent. Early research from Denmark suggests that it may be more contagious that the previous Omicron variant. This is incredibly concerning for the travel industry as it seems so just be emerging from the pandemic now.
From previous surges, you would think that countries were gearing up to shut down all over again. But as it turns out, most countries have turned a blind eye and appear ready to live with the pandemic rather than continue to isolate away from it.
Much of Europe has already begun loosening entry requirements, with some dropping restrictions altogether. Much of central America has made it easier to enter and Canada will be dropping their testing requirements for vaccinated travelers by April 1st.
It has been a long two years and people seem mostly eager to get back to normal. This was especially evident during the surges of the Omicron Variant. Omicron was a much milder form of the virus than its predecessors Alpha and Delta. This made many people less nervous about catching the virus as it spread through the US and Europe. Public support waned for restrictions over the past year that took the form of massive protests that had the potential to turn violent.
We have also seen huge reversals from some countries, specifically in Europe. Austria was going to begin a nationwide vaccine mandate on April 1st. This mandate would mean that the unvaccinated would not be able to access most public services and spaces and would also receive recurring fines for being unvaccinated. They have since reversed the law.
It’s going to be very hard to convince the public to return to some of these archaic restrictions and lockdowns for a new COVID variant.
In The United States
Much of the United States hasn’t really had COVID restrictions in over a year. Places like Florida, Texas, and a large portion of the middle of the U.S. have been restricted and mask-free since the end of the first wave. The political divide in the United States has made it such that there is a massive difference in COVID responses in Democrat controlled states and Republican controlled states. But even the Democrat states like New York and California are beginning to drop their restrictions.
Airlines Don’t Seem Bothered
The last few days have seen some of the world’s biggest airlines like KLM and British Airways drop their mask mandates on flights. Many experts said masks where here to stay in airports but even now that seems highly unlikely.
These moves are such a huge shift in messaging and direction regarding the handling of the pandemic, And could even signal the end of us treating COVID as a pandemic.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories