Men wearing protective suits make their way at a bus stop at Narita international airport on the first day of closed borders to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus Omicron variant amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2021 [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

(CARPHA) — Countries across the world, including the Caribbean, are rolling out more stringent measures for travellers, including additional testing and even travel bans, as part of their plan to combat the latest COVID-19 variant, Omicron.  In light of this, CARPHA Executive Director, Dr. Joy St. John contends: “The decision to impose entry requirements belongs to the national authorities”. 

Dr. St. John adds that there are serious considerations to be made: “It should be based on the country’s capacities for border surveillance, community surveillance, testing capacity and the ability of the health services to cope with mild, moderate and severe COVID-19 infection and the long-lasting effects.”

Recent news reports indicate that Omicron has been detected in more than 40 countries.  CARPHA acknowledges that the Omicron variant has been rapidly spreading to countries and within these countries.  There is also concern about the suggested ability of an individual to contract Omicron repeatedly.

Dr. St. John explains that it is still unclear as to whether Omicron can cause significant levels of severe disease, or if, similarly to other variants, it is more likely to cause severe disease in persons with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension and their risk factors, including obesity and cigarette smoking.

CARPHA has noted that the United States (US), the United Kingdom and Canada, which are important source markets for regional tourism, have all made viral testing mandatory for travel into their countries, with the US stipulating that the test result cannot be obtained longer than 24 hours before travel.