CORONAVIRUS

How has the covid-19 delta variant affected travel restrictions?

The CDC has altered its travel advice to reflect the increase in coronavirus cases in certain countries, but airlines are calling for the restrictions to be loosened.

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How has the covid-19 delta variant affected travel restrictions?
MIKE BLAKE REUTERS

For months concern has been growing about the impact of the delta variant of covid-19, a more infectious strain which has been gaining dominance in countries around the world.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the delta variant now accounts for roughly 83% of all new infections in the United States. It has been found in more than 100 nations and the World Health Organization project that it will soon become the most common strain globally.

Given the increased danger that this strain represents, many countries have implemented specific rules and guidance to restrict travel from areas known to have high rates of the delta variant. Here’s how that could affect travellers from the US.

CDC upgrades travel warning for five destinations

In response to the heighten infection rates, particularly in relation to the delta variant, the CDC and State Department have altered their advice for US travellers heading to certain countries. They warn of increased risk of contracting covid-19 in the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Fiji and the British Virgin Islands, but stop short of banning travel there entirely.

Both Indonesia and the United Kingdom are recording tens of thousands of daily cases with the delta variant believed to be exacerbating the spread. Jan Gelfand, head of the Indonesian delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said recently: "Every day we are seeing this delta variant driving Indonesia closer to the edge of a covid-19 catastrophe.”

There is evidence that the delta variant is able to bypass some covid-19 vaccines, although not necessarily those administered in the US. CNN reports that in early July more than 350 doctors and medical workers on the Indonesian island of Java have caught the virus despite being vaccinated with the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccination.

Calls for air travel to reopen despite threat of the delta variant

Recent market gains suggest that the travel industry is starting to enjoy a slight rebound as shares of United Airlines rose by around 2% on Wednesday morning. United had recorded six consecutive quarterly losses since the start of the pandemic but those losses are narrowing and the company’s CEO, Scott Kirby, has downplayed the risk of the delta variant.

Kirby told CNBC: “We’re not going to prevent the delta variant from coming to the United States by closing those borders because it’s already here.”

The White House has confirmed that administration officials will be meeting with their counterparts from the UK, EU, Mexico and Canada to discuss how to reopen international travel, but there has not yet been any concrete progress made.