2020 and 2021 have been plagued with Coronavirus or COVID-19. We are now coming to the end of 2021, which was hoped would be the year the virus stopped and we could return to normal life. However, since December 2020 new variants of COVID 19 have kept being identified and unfortunately, most of them have been extremely severe for travel restrictions.
In November 2021, the newest strain of COVID 19 known as 'Omicron' was first identified in South Africa but quickly spread like wildfire as people from the affected areas travelled worldwide. Because of the uncertainty with this new variant of the Coronavirus, many countries including the UK, USA, Ireland, France and Germany have imposed new travel restrictions as the infections of this new variant soar like a house on fire.
What this means for travel and aviation is currently a bleak picture because dependent on the country of origin, airline staff including pilots will have to self-isolate for up to 14 days if they test positive for COVID-19.
Sky News (UK) stated on December 27 some 8,000 flights were cancelled due to COVID 19 related staff shortages. These were mainly in the US as 3,000 flights were cancelled over the Christmas period in 2021, which encompasses the days following Christmas to December 28, 2021. According to the flight tracker FlightAware.com, some 14,269 flights were delayed on December 26, of which 1,369 were in the US. The following day, this number increased to 1,457.
On December 27 2021, some 75% of COVID-19 cases reported in the United States were due to the new Omicron variant. The Eastern Seaboard has been hit the hardest, with 90% of recorded cases being of this new variant.
Sources in the UK, however, stay on a positive note: the new variant has less severity and a shorter hospitalization period, averaging 3 days. However, cases in the UK soared past 100,000 for the first time on Thursday, December 23.
It is hoped that travel restrictions can be eased from February 2022 in the UK, but it is not yet known what other countries plan to do.
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