Houston woman with no recent travel history tests positive for omicron variant, Judge Hidalgo confirms


HOUSTON – A northwest Houston woman with no recent travel history tested positive for the omicron variant of COVID-19 on Monday, according to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

“It’s normal for viruses to mutate, and given how quickly Omicron spread in southern Africa, we’re not surprised that it showed up here,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “Getting vaccinated and continuing to use prevention strategies, including wearing a mask when you are around people you don’t live with, social distancing, handwashing and getting tested when you have symptoms, will help slow the spread of the virus and help end the pandemic.”

According to the Texas Department of State and Health Services, the woman, who is in her 40s, was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this week and later genetic sequencing results showed the infection was caused by the omicron variant strain.

Rafael Lemaitre, communications director and senior advisor to Hidalgo, said the woman is likely the first person in Texas to test positive for the new variant.

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According to an official in the Harris County Judge’s office, the woman is fully vaccinated and has not required hospitalization.

“I would expect in the next several days to weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if we identify several more cases here in the area,” Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, assistant professor of medicine – infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, said.

The B.1.1.529 variant was identified in South Africa last month and appears to spread more easily from person to person than most strains of the coronavirus. Currently, it is unclear if the Omicron variant is associated with a more severe disease. The department of health services said studies have commenced to determine how effective vaccines are expected to be against infection. However, vaccination is expected to continue to offer protection against hospitalization and death.

The case is now being investigated by Harris County Public Health and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.





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The 5 Best At-Home COVID Tests of 2021


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At-home COVID tests are a great way to keep you up to date on your health and give you the answers you need if you think you may have coronavirus. There are a few kinds of tests on the market, with each one offering something slightly different.

“An at-home test is an antigen test, also known as a rapid COVID test, [and provides] results in 15 to 30 minutes,” says Laura Morris, MD, MSPH, a family medicine physician and co-chair of the University of Missouri Health Care’s COVID-19 vaccine committee. “A home collection kit is a swab taken at home that is then mailed to a testing company to run a PCR test, [often needed] before having a medical procedure or pre-travel.”

When looking for an at-home COVID test, keep an eye on the swab method (whether it’s oral or nasal) and the result speed. Additionally, pay attention to the timeline of your symptoms and potential exposure.

Tests are most accurate, says Dr. Morris, when a person is having COVID symptoms or has had a recent high-risk exposure. Meanwhile, PCR tests can detect lower levels of the virus, so they are more accurate for asymptomatic cases.

We researched dozens of at-home COVID test kits and evaluated them for test type, swab type, result speed, and pricing. Each of the tests chosen in this article was determined to be the best of these factors.

Here are the best at-home COVID test kits on the market today.

A Note From the Editors

While all the tests on our list have been cleared by the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization, we recommend seeing a medical professional to confirm accuracy of any at-home test result. Additionally, we want to note that our editors are keeping a close eye on any product recalls to give you the best and most up-to-date information.

Final Verdict

You can’t beat the ease of use, quick results, and affordable price tag of the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test (view at Walmart). It’s the total package when it comes to antigen tests, allowing you to self-test at home and see your results 15 minutes later.

If you need a PCR test, you’ll have to collect your saliva sample and send it off to a lab, but the LetsGetChecked Coronavirus Test (view at LetsGetChecked) is user friendly and includes a prepaid UPS express shipping label for fast turnaround.

What to Look for in At-Home COVID Tests

Results Speed

A big deciding factor when it comes to COVID test kits is their results speed time. According to board-certified allergist and immunologist Sanjeev Jain, MD, PhD, PCR tests must be mailed into a lab to test a collected sample, so it can take several days for them to notify you of a positive or negative result.

That may be fine if you’re getting ready to travel, working from home, or self-isolating because of potential exposure, but not if you were exposed several days ago and need to know ASAP if you’re infected.

“An antigen test provides rapid results in 10 to 15 minutes, so this can be an ideal option if immediate results are needed,” says Dr. Jain.

Antigen vs. PCR

There are two primary types of at-home COVID tests available on the market: antigen tests and PCR tests.

Antigen: An antigen test is “a diagnostic test that detects specific proteins from the virus.” Because of this, antigen tests can provide results quickly, thus are often used for rapid tests.

However, these tests are most accurate when there’s a high viral load present. Because of this, people who have COVID (or who have had it and are no longer contagious) and only have a small viral load at the time of the test could potentially receive a false negative result.

That being said, if you know you’ve been exposed to the virus, they can be a good first step to take to prevent spreading the illness.

PCR: A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is “a diagnostic test that detects genetic material from the virus.” PCR tests amplify the viral genetic material, which makes them more sensitive and thus more likely to be accurate. However, the added amplification step requires in-lab testing, which takes longer to process results.

“[A PCR] test may be a good option if you have been recently exposed and are not symptomatic, because it can detect the virus at lower levels in the body,” says Dr. Jain. He adds that while antigen tests give quicker results, they require more virus to be present in the body for a positive test result. “Antigen tests are an accurate way to test for COVID-19 in symptomatic persons.”

Accuracy and Recalls

It’s important to note that a number of at-home COVID tests have been recalled for false positives or negatives. We are closely monitoring the recalls in this product category and will update this document immediately as needed.

Method of Collection

There are three ways a COVID test sample can be collected: nasal swab, oral swab, and saliva “spit tube.” You should take the user into consideration before choosing a test—kids, for example, may be more willing participants to a spit test than a nasal swab—but it’s important to know that not all collection methods are created equal.

“Studies have shown that nasal tests and saliva tests are more accurate in detecting COVID-19 than throat swabs, and have become the best-practice standard when performing COVID-19 testing,” says Dr. Jain.

In fact, a 2021 study showed saliva and nasal samples to be equally sensitive in detecting the virus across variable stages of illness.

FDA Emergency Use Authorization

Just because your local drugstore is selling it doesn’t mean a certain test is a smart purchase. If it hasn’t been authorized by the FDA, you should pass it over for one that has. Our roundup only includes tests that have been authorized by the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization.

“The FDA maintains a list of tests that have authorization, and using an FDA-authorized test ensures that it meets standards for performance and quality control,” explains Dr. Morris. “Many pharmacies sell devices that are authorized, and these are typically not costly. Be cautious of unbranded or very cheap tests, especially those that may come without instructions.”

Frequently Asked Questions


  • How do at-home COVID tests work?

    There are two types of at-home COVID tests: PCR and antigen. Depending on your health priorities, you may want to look for one over the other.

    “A PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, home test [obtains saliva or] a sample of cells from the nasal passages, which is mailed back to a lab to be tested for COVID-19 DNA,” explains Dr. Sanjeev Jain. “If COVID-19 DNA is detected within the sample, the test would be considered positive, and if no DNA is detected, it would be considered negative.”

    But because DNA testing needs to be done in a lab, the rapid tests performed entirely at home use a different metric to determine presence of the virus.

    “[Rapid tests] are different in that they check for antigens, which are a specific type of protein found on the COVID-19 virus,” says Dr. Jain. “The COVID-19 antigen tests are able to give almost immediate at-home results by telling you whether or not the proteins found on the COVID-19 virus are detected in the sample.”


  • Are at-home COVID tests accurate?

    If you’re not a healthcare professional, can you trust the results you receive from taking samples of your own bodily fluids and testing them for COVID? Surprisingly, yes—but with some caveats.

    “The ability to detect COVID-19 in a self-collected sample is very comparable to a sample collected by a healthcare provider,” says Dr. Sanjeev Jain, “[although the accuracy of PCR and antigen] tests can be impacted by the timing of the test and the quality of the specimen collected.” 

    In other words, the person collecting the sample is a less impactful variable than the exposure timeline or your symptom profile—a rapid test performed on a newly exposed, asymptomatic person is less likely to come back positive than a PCR test, even if a doctor collects the sample.

    When taking an antigen test, you may need to test once and then wait a few days (when your viral load could be higher) to test again for most accurate results. This may be needed if you develop symptoms after the first antigen test.

    “It’s important to follow the specific instructions of each test as written by the manufacturer, including how to collect the sample, how to handle it, and how to interpret the test strip or read-out device,” explains Dr. Laura Morris. “Each one is slightly different, and a patient should not assume that they know how to perform a test based on using one in the past.”

Why Trust Verywell Health?

Sarah Bradley has been writing health content since 2017—everything from product roundups and illness FAQs to nutrition explainers and the dish on diet trends. She knows how important it is to receive trustworthy and expert-approved advice about over-the-counter products that manage everyday health conditions, from GI issues and allergies to chronic headaches and joint pain.



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Travel news latest: Fury grows within travel industry after U-turn on pre-departure tests


A scientist specialising in emerging infectious diseases has said that travel restrictions will not stop the omicron variant from spreading.

Professor Paul Hunter, from the school of medicine at the University of East Anglia,  told BBC Breakfast that increased travel rules will have a “very minor impact” on the virus growth. 

“I think everything that we do has some benefit but I think the travel restrictions at this stage will have a very minor impact on how we we are likely to see things develop over the coming weeks,” he said.

Professor Hunter also highlighted that travel bans could have an adverse impact on controlling the pandemic.

“One of the problems with travel restrictions like this is that it then demotivates other countries to actually be open about their own situations for fear of what they would see as economic sanctions.

“So I think once the infection is spreading within a country, then border restrictions don’t really add anything. We’ve known that long before Covid. This has been knowledge that we’ve had for decades, if not centuries, to be honest.”





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Travel news live: Latest updates as Ireland adds compulsory Covid tests


Ireland is the latest country to tighten its travel rules and entry requirements.

All arrivals to the country must present a negative Covid test result from a PCR or antigen test – the former having been taken within the 72 hours before travel, the latter with a window of 48 hours.

The rule change was supposed to come in from today, but airlines are now reporting that it will be delayed until Sunday, 5 December.

An Aer Lingus spokesperson told RTÉ News that the government had told airline bosses last night that regulations will be delayed until Sunday.

Meanwhile some Ryanair passengers received a customer service text message saying the requirement for a test result had been delayed until Sunday.

In other travel news, Germany has imposed a lockdown on all unvaccinated residents, with leaders in discussions about making vaccination mandatory by February.

Chancellor Angela Merkel described the step – which involves non-jabbed citizens being banned from all but the most essential venues (such as supermarkets and pharmacies), and came in on Thursday 2 December – “as an act of national solidarity”.

Follow the latest travel news below:

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Ireland testing rule delayed until Sunday, say airlines

Ireland’s government have reportedly delayed the change in rules that will require a negative PCR or antigen test result from all arrivals until Sunday 5 December.

The change was supposed to come in today, but an Aer Lingus spokesperson has told RTÉ News that the government informed airline bosses that it will be delayed for 48 hours.

Meanwhile, some Ryanair passengers received a customer service text message saying the requirement for a test result had been delayed until Sunday.

Reports say the delay has been caused by legislation not being signed yesterday, as planned.

Many travellers have already booked and paid for their pre-travel tests to meet the requirements, which were announced as coming in today.

Lucy Thackray3 December 2021 09:53

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Travellers to US will have to take test within 24 hours of departure

The US is tightening its testing requirements for incoming tourists from early next week, according to a statement from the White House.

As part of the stricter measures, travellers to the US must take a Covid test within the 24 hours prior to departure, rather than the current window of 72 hours.

The change, which is designed to help contain the spread of the recently identified omicron variant, will come in from “early next week”, according to the statement.

“This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the omicron variant,” reads the statement from the Biden Administration.

“The President will announce additional steps to strengthen the safety of international travel as we face this new threat – just as we have faced those that have come before it.”

International travellers are currently only allowed into the States if they have received a full course of an approved Covid-19 vaccine.

Lucy Thackray3 December 2021 09:44

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Where to buy an affordable PCR test

Since Tuesday, mandatory PCR tests are back for all UK travellers.

Whether you have to take just one or two or three around your trip depends on whether you’ve been vaccinated or not – but either way, we’re back to the system prior to 24 October, hunting down a reasonably priced PCR with results speedy enough to release you promptly from post-travel quarantine.

So where should you be shopping for a PCR test?

It’s worth knowing about the discounts and offers many airlines and tour companies are offering their customers – they only save you a few pounds per test, but for families in particular this will make a huge difference.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Lucy Thackray3 December 2021 08:52

1638520683

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog, where we’ll be following all the latest updates.

Lucy Thackray3 December 2021 08:38



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Travel news live: Latest updates as Ireland adds compulsory Covid tests


Ireland is the latest country to tighten its travel rules and entry requirements.

From today, all arrivals to the country must present a negative Covid test result from a PCR or antigen test – the former having been taken within the 72 hours before travel, the latter with a window of 48 hours.

In a statement from the Irish government, ministers clarified that tests must be a “certified ‘negative/not detected’ test result (that is, not self-administered)”.

In other travel news, Germany has imposed a lockdown on all unvaccinated residents, with leaders in discussions about making vaccination mandatory by February.

Chancellor Angela Merkel described the step – which involves non-jabbed citizens being banned from all but the most essential venues (such as supermarkets and pharmacies), and came in on Thursday 2 December – “as an act of national solidarity”.

Follow the latest travel news below:

1638521578

Where to buy an affordable PCR test

Since Tuesday, mandatory PCR tests are back for all UK travellers.

Whether you have to take just one or two or three around your trip depends on whether you’ve been vaccinated or not – but either way, we’re back to the system prior to 24 October, hunting down a reasonably priced PCR with results speedy enough to release you promptly from post-travel quarantine.

So where should you be shopping for a PCR test?

It’s worth knowing about the discounts and offers many airlines and tour companies are offering their customers – they only save you a few pounds per test, but for families in particular this will make a huge difference.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Lucy Thackray3 December 2021 08:52

1638520683

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog, where we’ll be following all the latest updates.

Lucy Thackray3 December 2021 08:38



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Travelers to U.S.: Can They Get Their Tests Back in Time?


LONDON — Deborah Tudhope was growing anxious. An American lawyer living in London, she was hoping to fly back to the United States in two weeks to see her 96-year-old mother, who lives in a retirement home in Maine. But the Omicron-driven travel restrictions announced on Thursday by the White House have her worrying that the trip may not happen.

Ms. Tudhope, 72, has had to reschedule her required coronavirus test for the day before her flight, which the airline had already pushed back a day. With the rules seemingly shifting by the hour, she said she faced multiple hurdles: getting out of Britain, getting into the United States and visiting her mother in the home.

“I don’t know how this whole thing is going to work out,” said Ms. Tudhope, who described herself as disheartened, if not surprised, by the turmoil. “But I did make sure the flights are re-bookable.”

Such private dramas are playing out all over the world, as thousands of people — Americans living abroad and foreigners hoping to visit the United States — grapple with the new complexities of holiday travel in the age of Covid.

The spread of the Omicron variant in the last week has injected even more uncertainty into an already fraught exercise. On Thursday the Biden administration shortened the time frame for international travelers to the United States to take a Covid test within a day before departure, regardless of vaccination status.

That has left would-be travelers nervously calculating whether they will get test results back in time to make their flights or worrying that their home countries could impose more stringent travel bans while they are away.

The United States stopped short of imposing a mandatory seven-day quarantine on arrivals, which many travelers said would have torpedoed their plans. Nor did it upgrade its standard for an acceptable Covid screen from an antigen to a P.C.R. test, which can take significantly longer to produce results.

But the new one-day window for getting tested announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has nevertheless added an extra layer of preflight stress.

Paula Tolton, 23, an American student in Taipei, Taiwan, who plans to fly home next month to visit her family in Jacksonville, Fla., said she was worried that the new rules could cause her to miss her flight. Even the previous testing requirement for the United States, a negative result on a test within three days of arrival in the country, triggered “anxiety to the max,” she said.

“I’ve had that stress before when a P.C.R. test didn’t come back when I was supposed to fly in April,” she said. “I was freaking out.”

Public-health experts said there was a sound reason to shorten the time frame for test results: it would detect more infections in travelers. And since the results for antigen tests are normally available within a few hours, it should be possible to take a test and get the results within the prescribed period.

“A negative test is a good idea, especially since fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus,” said Devi Sridhar, head of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh. But she acknowledged that the patchwork of travel restrictions and the shifting nature of the rules were exacting a toll on people.

“Uncertainty is killing the travel industry and people’s confidence in booking and traveling,” Professor Sridhar said. “They need a standard approach across countries and stability over time.”

Travel agents expressed relief that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not recommend a seven-day quarantine. “You don’t go to New York to self-isolate in a nine-square-meter hotel room,” said Jean-Pierre Mas, president of Les Entreprises du Voyage, a union representing France’s major travel agencies and tour operators.

After more than a year of pandemic-related disruptions, Mr. Mas said many travelers were used to testing requirements and would probably not be put off by the new rules. But he said the lack of certainty — and a sense that governments were abruptly changing rules in reaction to the perceived threat of a new variant — was keeping people at home. After picking up over the summer and early fall, he said business had fallen over the past several weeks by about 25 percent, compared with the same period in 2019.

“For the United States, we’ve sold almost no trips over the past four to five days,” Mr. Mas said, even though it remains a popular destination for French tourists, who flock to New York City at Christmas.

What makes the latest turbulence especially painful for many is that it was only several weeks ago that the United States eased travel restrictions for international travelers who were fully vaccinated, leading to tearful reunions.

At the same time, travel between Europe and the United States had been on the rebound after a long hiatus during the earlier phases of the pandemic. Flights between the United States and Italy have been full until recent days, with bookings at almost the same level as in 2019, according to a spokeswoman for Fiavet, the association of Italian travel agents.

British Airways, Air France and United Airlines have added more trans-Atlantic flights, while ITA Airways, an Italian carrier, added a daily connection between Rome and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Officials in Italy said the country was well-prepared to handle a surge in tests for passengers bound for the United States. In the weeks since the government began requiring frequent, negative tests for all unvaccinated Italian workers, pharmacies have processed up to one million rapid tests a day.

“The prospect of more rapid swabs for travelers to the U.S. is not a problem for pharmacies here,” said Marco Cossolo, president of Italy’s largest association of private pharmacies, Federfarma.

South Korea built up the capacity to administer an average of 68,000 P.C.R. tests a day in November, according to Seung-ho Choi, the deputy director of risk communication at the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Center. Results almost always come within 24 hours, he said, though travelers catching early-morning flights when clinics are closed might have to seek out hospitals that administer tests.

Britain is among several countries that have recently required tests for incoming travelers within a day or two after arriving. Randox Laboratories, a British company that provides Covid tests for travel, said on Thursday that since the changes were announced for travelers entering Britain last weekend, it had ramped up P.C.R. testing capacity to its pandemic peak of 180,000 tests per day.

That would also help with processing tests for travelers to the United States, the company said.

For Europeans with ties to the United States, the new rules are merely the latest wild card in a life already lived perpetually in flux.

“What a nightmare — enough!” said Alice Volpi, 28, when told of the impending American restrictions.

An Italian who was living in New York at the outset of the pandemic, Ms. Volpi recounted how she could not return home to Italy for several months because of her country’s travel ban. When she finally got home, a travel ban imposed by the United States prevented her from returning to see her boyfriend in New York.

“The most frustrating part is that you can never make a plan more than one week in advance because everything can change every day,” said Ms. Volpi, who insisted she would press on with plans to visit her boyfriend at Christmas. “That doesn’t allow me to be serene.”

For some Americans living abroad who fear that borders may close again if Omicron proves to be a lethal threat, the solution is to move up their travel timelines. The testing requirements are stressful, they said, but not as much as the possibility that the Biden administration might eventually cut off travel pathways completely.

“That’s what I’m most worried about — not getting to see my family,” said Sarah Little, 25, who moved from New York to London in September to study. She had originally planned to fly home closer to Christmas, but is now trying to book a flight early next week.

“It would just be devastating if I couldn’t get home,” Ms. Little said.

Gaia Pianigiani and Emma Bubola contributed reporting from Rome; Saskia Solomon and Isabella Kwai from London; Aurelien Breeden from Paris; John Yoon from Seoul and Sheryl Gay Stolberg from Washington.



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Biden promotes new COVID plan that includes free tests, travel rules


play

WASHINGTON – Tighter travel rules, free at-home tests and booster shots are key elements of President Joe Biden’s latest strategy to combat the rapidly evolving coronavirus.

Biden said his plan to get through the winter months, which he promoted during a visit to the National Institutes of Health on Thursday, is one that “all Americans hopefully can rally around.”

“My plan I’m announcing today pulls no punches in the fight against COVID-19,” Biden said. “It’s a plan that I think should unite us.”

Biden emphasized that he was not expanding or adding vaccination requirements as the federal courts review his previously announced rules for health care workers and employees of larger companies.

He nodded briefly to efforts by some congressional Republicans to halt federal spending unless Biden repeals the vaccination requirements.

“Some of my friends on the other team are arguing that if I don’t commit that they’ll never be any more mandates, they’re gonna let us default” on the national debt, Biden said. “In the neighborhood I came from in Claymont they’d look at me and say, ‘Go figure.’”

The components of his plan, announced as people begin hunkering down for winter and gathering for the holidays, include:

  • Requiring travelers entering the country by air to test negative for the coronavirus within a day of departure, regardless of vaccination status or nationality, instead of within three days.
  • Extending through March 18 the requirement that masks be worn on airplanes, trains and public transportation.
  • Requiring private health insurance companies to cover 100% of the cost of at-home tests for the coronavirus.  Details, such as when this will start, must be worked out.
  • Launching a public education campaign to encourage 100 million adults to get boosters, with a special focus on seniors.

Biden’s plan  was released a day after the first confirmed case of the omicron variant in the USA was announced and as a poll shows rising frustration and waning optimism about the state of COVID-19 vaccinations.

More: As omicron fears grow, COVID-19 once again spoils Biden’s plan to push his legislative agenda

More than half of adults (58%) say they are “frustrated,” an increase from the 50% who said they felt that way as the initial vaccination effort began in January, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Thursday.

The share of the country that expresses optimism about the status of vaccinations has dropped from 66% to 48%.

The higher frustration and lower optimism are driven mostly by Republicans and, to a lesser extent, by independents.

Even before the omicron variant was confirmed Wednesday, the Biden administration had been working on a coronavirus mitigation strategy for the winter, when people will be indoors more often as well as traveling for the holidays. 

The latest variant, which started circulating as people are still getting infected by the delta variant, added to the urgency of the administration’s message that more people need to get vaccinated, including receiving a booster if eligible.

play

COVID-19 omicron variant is spreading quickly. Here’s what we know.

South African scientists identified a new COVID-19 variant which has now been reported in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.

Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

$700K for defying vaccine requirement?: Democrats push for jump in workplace fines

“I keep coming back to that because that’s really the solution to this problem,” presidential health adviser Anthony Fauci said Wednesday after the first confirmed case of the omicron variant in the USA was announced.

The Minnesota Department of Health announced Thursday a resident who had traveled to New York City tested positive for the omicron variant.

Biden’s new strategy includes launching hundreds of one-stop-shop sites for entire families – children through grandparents – to get vaccinated or boosted.

Pharmacies will expand availability of appointments and walk-in vaccinations, spreading the word through text, calls and emails, according to the White House.

Medicare will contact 63 million seniors to encourage booster shots.

The government’s efforts will be boosted by AARP which will offer rides to booster clinics and hold town halls and other educational events.

Though nearly all Americans age 65 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, less than half have gotten a booster, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among all Americans, 70% have had at least one shot, and 21% have been boosted.

A federal appeals court paused Biden’s effort to increase vaccination rates by requiring workers at larger businesses to get vaccinated or be regularly tested.

President Biden: Omicron coronavirus variant ‘a cause for concern, not a cause for panic’

For the time being, the administration is “asking businesses to step forward and do what’s right to protect their workers and to protect their communities, which is to put in place some sort of vaccination requirement or testing requirement for the workplace,” according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the president’s strategy on condition of anonymity.

A majority of workers at larger businesses say their employer requires vaccination (36%) or say they want their employer to require it (17%), according to the Kaiser Family Foundation survey. 

The public overall is split on Biden’s vaccination requirement for workers. Slightly more say they support (52%) than oppose (45%) it.

The public is also divided over Biden’s handling of the pandemic: 44% approve, and 48% disapprove.

Maureen Groppe has covered Washington for nearly three decades and is a White House correspondent for USA TODAY. Follow her on Twitter @mgroppe.





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Travel news live: France demands negative tests from Brits


France is the latest country to announce it is tightening entry requirements in the wake of the omicron coronavirus variant, which has already been identified in 25 countries around the world so far.

Fully vaccinated travellers from outside the EU, including those from the UK, will have to present a negative Covid test to enter the country.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal confirmed the move after the French government’s weekly Defence Council meeting on 1 December – although further details such as what kind of test will be required, and when the new rules kick in, have yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, experts are predicting that global travel restrictions will continue into the new year as a result of omicron, which is feared to be more transmissible and vaccine resistant to previous iterations of Covid-19.

An industry source told Travel Weekly that, at the UK government’s next tri-weekly travel review, they expected measures to be extended “another three weeks [because] they don’t want to risk Christmas. We couldn’t expect the government to do anything else at this stage.

“We don’t think things will change in three weeks, but the government must keep the measures under review. They can’t be in place any longer than necessary.”

Follow the latest travel news below:

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Good news for skiers

Following Switzerland’s announcement that all British travellers will have to quarantine for 10 days after arrival in the country, it has clarified that anyone transiting onward to another country in less than 24 hours, with no stopover, can avoid isolation.

The decision is a relief for the many ski holidaymakers who had planned to fly into a Swiss airport such as Geneva, and travel onward to a ski resort in neighbouring France or Italy.

Switzerland had made the quarantine announcement on Saturday, but by Monday it was unclear whether connecting travellers would also face a 10 day self-isolation period on arrival.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Lucy Thackray2 December 2021 08:14

1638431922

Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog, where we’ll be sharing all the latest updates throughout the day.

Helen Coffey2 December 2021 07:58



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Man travelling from M’sia via land VTL tests positive for Covid-19 in S’pore – Mothership.SG


Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates: https://t.me/mothershipsg

A male passenger travelling from Malaysia to Singapore via the land-based Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) tested positive for Covid-19 upon arrival in the city-state on Nov. 30, Shin Min Daily News reported.

News of the incident stemmed from a Chinese newspaper reader’s anonymous tip-off.

According to the tip-off, the incident was witnessed after the reader took the bus from Larkin Sentral Bus Terminal in Johor Bahru, Malaysia to Singapore.

Sudden commotion at waiting area

The news provider claimed that she took the 6:45pm bus operated by Handal Indah, also known as Causeway Link, and reached Singapore at about 8:15pm, Shin Min reported.

The woman traveller said there were seven people on the bus, which was designated to ferry the passengers to Queen Street Bus Terminal.

Everything appeared normal, but there was a sudden commotion when the travellers were waiting for their Covid-19 test results at the waiting area upon arriving in Singapore, the traveller who provided the tip-off said.

“Everyone there was wondering what was going on when the workers suddenly panicked and yelled at the medical personnel,” she added.

Subsequently, a male traveller in a white t-shirt was told to isolate himself from the rest.

Man looked bewildered

The woman who provided the tip-off claimed that she was told by the medical personnel that the male traveller had tested positive for Covid-19, Shin Min reported.

She added that he looked bewildered when he was sitting there alone: “The medical personnel did not approach the guy, but told him to leave the waiting area and to isolate himself from the rest of the bus passengers.”

The witness also said the other passengers who took a different bus were able to leave the waiting area.

According to Shin Min, the male passenger is believed to have been travelling alone and did not mingle with other passengers on board.

Malaysia detected Covid-19 case on first day of VTL

On the first day that the VTL was launched, Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said there was a Covid-19 positive case detected among travellers from Singapore who had entered Malaysia.

As a precaution, travellers who are entering Singapore via the land-based VTL will have to do pre-departure testing and produce a negative test result upon arrival.

In view of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant, land-based VTL travellers must take a second antigen rapid test (ART) upon arriving in Singapore as well.

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Travel news live: PCR tests required from today as omicron spreads


Hong Kong and Ecuador are the two latest destinations to tighten their entry rules in the face of the new variant of concern, omicron.

Stricter border controls and harsher quarantine rules are being introduced across the globe in response to the new variant.

Hong Kong is barring non-residents from Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia, as well as all travellers who have visited Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, and Italy in the past 21 days.

Meanwhile Ecuador has closed its borders to arrivals from South Africa, Botswana, Egypt, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Namibia.

This follows Hong Kong banning arrivals from eight southern African countries last week.

From today, the UK government is demanding PCR tests for travel, just weeks after cheaper antigen (or lateral flow) tests were permitted.

PCR tests are vital for genomic sequencing, the process needed to detect the variant of the virus which causes each infection.

Follow all the latest travel news below:

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Singapore to tighten entry restrictions

Singapore is tightening entry restrictions and enhancing testing protocols for travellers arriving after 11.59pm on 2 December.

All air travellers entering or transiting through Singapore must undergo a pre-departure test within two days of their departure for Singapore. Vaccinated Brits will also have to undergo supervised, self-administered ART tests at a Quick Test Centre on day three and seven of their stay in Singapore.

Travellers who arrived between 12 and 27 November and had travelled to countries or regions affected by the omicron in the previous 14 days will have to go through a one-time “surveillance” PCR test.

These measures will continue for four weeks and will be reviewed and extended if necessary.

Helen Coffey30 November 2021 15:00

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What PCR tests are available and how much do they cost?

The faster you want to leave quarantine, the more you are likely to pay for a day 2 PCR test on entry to the UK.

Tests at airports and other other transport locations are among the most expensive. Collinson is offering post-arrival tests for £69 at Heathrow, Gatwick, East Midlands, London City, Manchester and Stansted airports – as well as the O2 in east London. Many airlines can provide discount codes – for example BA20OFF – that give a 20 per cent discount.

Arriving travellers who are not in such a hurry can save significantly by opting for a 24- or 48-hour turnaround and/or self-administering tests.

Randox has a £48 home kit (again, discountable with a code such as Easyjet2021) and says: “For samples returned via standard drop box, we aim to provide next day results up to 11.59pm.”

Read our full explainer on the testing rules for travellers here:

Simon Calder30 November 2021 14:38

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Scotland has higher age exemption for travel testing than other three UK nations

In Scotland, children aged under 11 need not take a PCR test when travelling into the country – in the other three UK nations the exemption only pertains to those under the age of five.

The first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, wanted tougher travel rules, with eight days of mandatory self-isolation for all arrivals to the UK and a PCR test at the end.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We believe this would be more effective in detecting variants.”

Were the plan adopted, it would extend the minimum length of quarantine from a couple of hours to eight days. But it has been rejected by Downing Street.

Simon Calder30 November 2021 14:30

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Tourists transiting through Switzerland in under 24 hours ‘need not quarantine’

The Foreign Office has updated its guidelines for travel to Switzerland to clarify the quarantine rules for passengers transiting onward to another country.

“There is no quarantine requirement for travellers arriving in Switzerland from the UK who wish to travel onward to another country, as long as travel through Switzerland is less than 24 hours and does not involve a stopover,” reads the update on the FCDO’s Swiss entry requirements page.

There had been confusion around whether quarantine was required for those flying to Switzerland and travelling on to other countries by land rather than air, with some passengers bound for French or Italian resorts reportedly being turned away from Geneva airport over the weekend.

Lucy Thackray30 November 2021 12:22

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Ski operator suspends Switzerland trips

Ski experts Inghams have cancelled all December trips to Switzerland, following the country’s decision to impose a mandatory 10-day quarantine on all visitors from the UK.

“Following the news that Switzerland has imposed a 10 day quarantine on all UK arrivals, we have sadly suspended all December 2021 departures to Switzerland,” read a statement by CEO Joe Ponte.

“Customers impacted by this news are being offered the option to move their booking free of charge or to cancel their booking with a full refund.

“We are extremely disappointed for all our customers who were looking forward to a ski holiday in Switzerland in the coming month. Switzerland accounts for around 6% of the holidays in our winter programme, and booking numbers for the coming ski season have been strong. He emphasised that Inghams trips still have the flexibility to cope with travel rules changes, including being able to change your dates or destination up to 28 days before departure.

Ski holidays to Switzerland have been hit by the new travel rules

(Getty Images)

Lucy Thackray30 November 2021 11:54

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Hong Kong, India and Ecuador latest to tighten entry rules

Hong Kong, India and Ecuador have all announced tighter travel restrictions in response to the omicron coronavirus variant, which is quickly spreading around the globe.

Hong Kong has broadened its travel ban on non-residents, with travellers who have visited Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Canada, Israel and Australia in the past 21 day barred from entering, along with those arriving from Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia.

Vaccinated residents may enter the city but must quarantine for seven days in a government facility before isolating for a further two weeks in a hotel at their own expense – 21 days in total.

India is also implementing stricter guidelines for international travellers, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation; while Ecuador is demanding that all arrivals show proof of full vaccination, plus a negative Covid test, as well as banning visitors from six southern African countries.

Helen Coffey30 November 2021 10:54

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What are the new rules for travel testing from today?

In a statement last Thursday, the Departments for Health and Transport said: “After 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 lateral flow tests will no longer be accepted.”

PCR tests are more expensive and slower to process, but allow positive tests to be sequenced to identify whether the omicron variant is involved.

The other big change from this week is that double jabbed travellers must self-isolate on arrival until a negative result comes through from their “day two” test – previously, fully vaccinated arrivals could take the test and go about their business until a result was received.

If your results are delayed, you must stay in isolation until they are confirmed, say government guidelines.

The rule change has generated confusion and further expense for travellers who had already arranged lateral flow tests around travel this week, and must now change their orders to a PCR.

Lucy Thackray30 November 2021 10:18

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South Africa travel ban is ‘bulls***’, says Daily Show host

US Daily Show host Trevor Noah has weighed in on the travel bans from multiple countries on South Africa and other southern African nations, calling the decision “bullsh***”.

Speaking on last night’s show, Noah, who is South African, said: “I think this travel ban is total bullsh***, I really do…

“Omicron has already been found in a dozen countries around the world. Right?

“We don’t know where it started, we don’t know how long it’s been around – it’s everywhere from Hong Kong to Israel to Spain, so why aren’t you banning travel from all of those countries, too?

“Only the African countries?”

The US, the UK and the whole of the EU among others have all barred arrivals from South Africa and its neighbours as details of the omicron variant emerge.

Yesterday, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said he was “disappointed” by the travel bans imposed on the country, and called for leaders to lift them.

Watch the full clip here:

Lucy Thackray30 November 2021 09:43

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Simon Calder to answer your travel questions

As travel confusion builds once again around different border rules and quarantine requirements in destinations around the world, it’s a worrying time to be booking a holiday.

The Independent’s travel correspondent, Simon Calder, is following all of the changes amid the new variant and surging cases this winter, and is hosting a Zoom event this Wednesday, 1 December.

In the one-hour, evening event, Simon will look at the key issues for travellers as we move into 2022, and answer your burning holiday questions.

Lucy Thackray30 November 2021 08:44

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City breaks in the Netherlands hit by new curfew

The Netherlands announced harsher local restrictions on Friday, amid a surge in Covid cases this autumn.

While the country has stopped short of imposing a full lockdown, a substantial new curfew – plus government advice to “stay at home as much as possible” is likely to decimate winter breaks and holidays in the country, which is especially popular for atmospheric city breaks in hotspots such as Amsterdam.

So what does this mean for travellers to the Netherlands?

Read the full story here:

Lucy Thackray30 November 2021 08:25



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