How will the Omicron COVID-19 variant affect travel in the state?


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — The Biden Administration announced earlier this week a travel ban to a series of South African countries due to the development of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Airport directors and teams across the state say when it comes to COVID-19 and its variants, they have not relaxed guidelines once since the start of this pandemic.

“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” said President Joe Biden.

Omicron is popping up in dozens of countries across the world, resulting in a travel ban where it seemingly got its origin in South Africa.

“Even before Omicron came in, we have a situation where we would be able to test,” said U.S. Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci. “The PCR’s that we mostly use would pick up this very unusual variant that has a large constellation of mutations.”

Now, local airport directors and teams are taking a look at what new bans and restrictions on travel could mean for them.

“Precautions have never stopped being taken place at airports,” said Bill Hopper, director for the Pitt-Greenville Airport.

Hopper said as far as local travel, there shouldn’t be much concern.

“For international airports, I’m sure there’s probably some information and if people are flying internationally, they’re definitely going to want to check in with their airline, however, here at Pitt Greenville we are doing fine,” said Hopper.

Noting cleaning and new upgrades in the airport are consistently helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

“They recommend what they call MERV 13 air filters, we install MERV 13 filters throughout our terminal,” Hopper said.

Officials from other airports like Charlotte Douglas International, Raleigh-Durham International and Albert J. Ellis Airport in Jacksonville all say they are not stopping when it comes to cleaning efforts and taking masking and other policies seriously. Hopper noted they are all in contact with each other to make sure they are all on the same page.

“All the commercial airports in the state of North Carolina we have meetings every two weeks on a webinar,” said Hopper. “We are part of the effort to try and prevent the spread.”

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