International travelers concerned after discovery of new COVID-19 variant

ATLANTA — After the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been discovered in southern Africa, many travelers are wary of going through with their travel plans.

A World Health Organization panel says the Omicron variant could be even worse than the Delta variant. They said it could have a higher risk of re-infection for people who had COVID-19.

The U.S. government is taking early action against the virus despite it not being detected in the U.S. yet. President Biden has instituted a travel ban on eight African countries where cases of the variant have been detected: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mizambique and Malawi.

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Channel 2′s Michele Newell spoke with some travelers who are a little nervous about traveling after learning about the variant.

Alan Byrd’s son and grandchildren, who he hasn’t seen in more than a year, live in Zambia. While not on the list of countries where travel is banned, Byrd says he isn’t sure if he should go through with his plans to visit.

“I’m not sure whether I want to complete this flight now because I don’t want to get there and get stuck,” told Newell after he arrived at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for the flight. “[I’m] very much concerned about it. I’m a senior with underlying health issues.”

Byrd’s flight was scheduled for an 18-hour layover in Johannesburg, South Africa, which he was concerned about.

“I don’t think it’s good for you to travel right now, pop. Ok I’ll go and talk to them and see about rescheduling,” Byrd’s son told him on the phone.

Byrd canceled his flight.


Other travelers, though concerned, followed through with their plans.

“I was concerned about the safety measures but I think the airlines that I choose they have good measures,” said Vinayak Daramwer, who was flying to India.

Delta Airlines flies from Johannesburg to Atlanta three times a week.

Delta says there are no current plans to make adjustments, but will be working closely with the government to monitor the variant and travel restrictions.

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The new variant has not been detected in Georgia. The state’s Department of Public Health says it is closely monitoring the variant and continuing to urge Georgians to get vaccinated.