'Probably already here': UCSF doctor says US travel ban won't stop Omicron variant from spreading

Luz Pena Image
Sunday, November 28, 2021
Doctor says US travel ban won't stop Omicron variant from spreading
As U.S. announces a travel ban on travelers from several African countries, UCSF doctor believes these travel restrictions are too late.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Starting Monday, the U.S will ban entry to most travelers from several African countries. Vallejo resident, Gray Pimentel arrived from London to the Bay Area on Friday.

"I thought things were getting better quite frankly. This is so new, and it was kind of happening while we were there," said Pimentel.

As Omicron continues to spread, the UK, Japan, Brazil, Thailand and Singapore are among a growing list of countries imposing restrictions on travelers from South Africa.

Carsten missed his flight to Singapore after not meeting the testing requirements before his flight.

RELATED: New COVID-19 variant stokes world fears, triggers travel bans

"It turns out that the test results that I got from a test center were the wrong type of tests and that type of test is not accepted," said Carsten.

Strict guidelines are happening across the globe. Edwards Siu is the owner of the travel agency Classic Tour. He is getting flashbacks of the beginning of the pandemic.

"We are expecting more business coming in but now it's the new virus and its making a lot of tourist nervous and the won't want to travel," said Siu.

Italy and Germany confirmed their first case of Omicron Saturday. Michele Stoppa is glad he made it to the Bay Area safely. He was visiting family in Germany and Italy.

RELATED: Experts peg Omicron as 'worst variant that we have come across'; here's what they know so far

There are fears that the new variant could be even more contagious than the current predominant one.

Luz Pena: "Were you concerned that you probably were going to get stuck?"

Michele Stoppa: "A little bit as always but we were confident."

UCSF's Infectious Disease expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong believes these travel restrictions are too late.

"If it's going to be really transmissible a travel ban isn't really going to stop what is going to happen naturally. By the time you recognize something it's probably already here," said Dr. Chin-Hong.

RELATED: UK, Germany, Italy report cases of new COVID variant omicron

One of the main concerning factors of this new variant is that it had 50 mutations. That's more than any other variant, including the highly transmissible Delta variant which has 19 mutations.

"We know that our current vaccines show that they are a little bit more resistant but they still work against these variant," said Dr. Chin-Hong.

Meanwhile many are hoping they will get to travel to see their loved ones this Christmas.

"If India comes back with a lot of cases back on, then we might not be able to go," said Fremont Resident, Atul Ranade.

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