CDC orders names of passengers returning from southern Africa

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is ordering airlines to turn over the names of passengers who have recently been in any of eight southern African countries where the COVID-19 Omicron variant is known to be spreading.

The CDC issued the directive to airlines late Tuesday, according to Reuters, which obtained a copy of the order.

It requires all airlines to collect and turn over names and contact information for all travelers who have been to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe in the past 14 days.

The letter from the CDC cited “the emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19” as a reason for the order.

The directive gives airlines 24 hours after the arrival of passengers to pass the information along to federal health officials.

The CDC has asked several airlines to hand over the names of passengers who have recently returned from South Africa so they can be monitored for the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The CDC has ordered several airlines to hand over the names of passengers who have recently returned from South Africa so they can be monitored for the new COVID Omicron variant.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
The CDC had already required that all airlines collect contact tracing information from international travelers.
The CDC also required that all airlines collect contact tracing information from international travelers.
REUTERS/Tami Chappell/File Photo

The CDC said it “will provide the contact information of these passengers to jurisdictional state and local public health partners for public health follow-up. This follow-up may include recommendations for potential post-arrival viral testing and quarantine and isolation.”

The US already barred nearly all foreign nationals who have recently been in one of the southern African countries effective Monday.

Effective Nov. 8, the CDC had already required that all airlines collect contact tracing information from international travelers, but officials had not previously ordered that information to be turned over to the government.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are conducting tests to see if the current vaccine will protect people from the Omicron variant.
Both Pfizer and Moderna are conducting tests to see if the current vaccine will protect people from the Omicron variant.
AP Photo/Christophe Ena

Omicron has been found in 20 countries but not yet in the US, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.

The emergence of the Omicron variant has spurred countries around the world to implement travel restrictions once again — though public health experts are split on the effectiveness of such measures and whether it’s the right course of action.

Little remains known about the new variant, with some warning that it’s likely to reduce the effectiveness of the currently available vaccines and medications while others point to signs that it may lead to less severe sickness while being more transmissible.

Several countries have already imposed travel restrictions to other parts of the world in the hope of containing the variant.
Several countries have already imposed travel restrictions to other parts of the world in the hope of containing the variant.
KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

The uncertainty has thrown global stock markets into a volatile frenzy and prompted city, state and national officials to suggest that fresh COVID restrictions may be on the way.

Scientists have said it could be weeks before they’re able to figure out exactly how much of a threat the new variant poses to the world.

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