As families begin planning their 2022 travel plans, a new Covid-19 mutation has shown up. This mutation is “omicron,” which sounds ominous (don’t they all?), but is really just the letter “O” in the Greek alphabet, along with “Omega.” Importantly, various nations have vowed to close borders and take further steps to protect their citizenry from a new variant.
I plan to travel from the United States, and as of now, we are not closing our borders other than for a few countries such as South Africa where Omicron is thought to have originated. The more pressing question is will I be able to enter any European or Asian countries once I’m ready to leave for my trip?
Given the way some countries have reacted during the pandemic, I now have serious doubts about visiting some of them. For instance, we had Australia on our itinerary pretty firmly. But media reports seem to indicate Australia has been very strict in its handling of virus-related lockdowns. Therefore, we are holding off on booking any firm things in Australia for the time being. Likewise, some European nations like France have closed its borders to Americans at various points during this pandemic, and that could certainly happen again if Omicron gets out of control. There have been plenty of demonstrations, like this large one in Austria. The citizenry certainly cannot take much more of this pandemic.
We plan to potentially book some of our stays quite far out to ensure we get our top choice for lodging. We plan to take this approach in Bali, for instance. But the risk remains that our trip may be impacted, and the only thing we all can do is wait and see.
Another key component will be the efficacy of our current mRNA vaccines against Omicron and any further variant. Hopefully the vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalization and death with Omicron like they seemingly were with prior variants. The same goes for natural immunity from prior infection. Perhaps we are at the stage of this pandemic where the variants will lose their strength quite quickly. I frankly believe we are.
I think we have to be getting close to the end of this pandemic. Historically, pandemics really only lasted 18 months or so. We’re past that. We delayed resolution of the pandemic by start and stop lockdowns without a clear strategy for why we were doing this. It started as “14 days to slow the spread,” and yet here we are still talking about lockdowns nearly two years later, so clearly that policy is either not working properly, or we’re going about it incorrectly somehow. But that aside, hopefully the virus naturally sort of fades away, posing minimal risk to worldwide travelers.
But I cannot help but be cautious given that our planned trip to Sweden was cancelled two years in a row. One thing I know for sure is that I’ll look at how I travel more closely after going through this pandemic. I used to not think a lot about my sleep, eating, and drinking while on trips. Lately I’ve paid much more attention. As a college professor once told me, the best way to beat health issues is to never have to step in the ring in the first place. The more you can stay healthy on your own, perhaps you can avoid the major issues of illness while abroad. I’ve never been truly sick while traveling, but that may have been the luck of the draw. Now, my family and I will make a concerted effort to take care of our health day in and day out .
If I had to bet money, I think all borders will be open by June of 2022, with Covid-19 becoming so weak from global herd immunity that it poses little or no threat to travelers. So given that, we will continue to plan our trip and move forward with some bookings–such as the airbnb in Bali–while not getting too attached to the trip to Australia. We’ll have to see about France. We have friends from France and have a great deal of respect for French people. I have faith European nations can get beyond this episode and be stronger for it.