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CDC cuts isolation period in half

CDC cuts isolation period in half

American travelers line up outside the TSA security checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 22, 2021, ahead of the Christmas. All 50 states have discovered the Omicron variant while millions are expected to travel during the holidays. Photo: IC

The US Monday halved the isolation period for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in a bid to blunt mass Omicron-induced disruption, as infections hit new highs in multiple US states and Europe, wreaking havoc on global air travel.

Some 11,500 flights have been scrapped worldwide since Friday and tens of thousands more delayed, during one of the year’s busiest travel periods – with multiple airlines saying spikes in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have caused staffing shortages.

Effects rippled worldwide, with about 3,000 flights already canceled Monday and 1,100 more on Tuesday, according to flight tracker FlightAware.

Opening the way for more people to return to work sooner and minimizing the prospect of mass labor shortages, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday cut isolation for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases from 10 to five days.

The guidelines, which are non-binding but closely followed by US businesses and policymakers, further suggest that the five-day isolation period be “followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others.”

Cases in the US are already on track to reach record highs in January, fueled by large pockets of unvaccinated residents as well as lack of access to quick and easy testing.

President Joe Biden said Monday some US hospitals could be “overrun” but that the country is generally well prepared to meet the latest surge and Americans need not “panic.”

In a virtual meeting with state governors and top health advisors, Biden stressed that the rapid spread of Omicron would not have the same impact as the initial outbreak of COVID-19 or the Delta variant surge in 2021.

“Omicron is a source of concern, but it should not be a source of panic,” he said.

Nationwide, the US is closing in on the daily high of 250,000 cases recorded in January 2020 in the world’s most affected nation, which has lost more than 816,000 people to the pandemic.

Governments worldwide are scrambling to boost vaccinations, stressing that the overwhelming majority of hospitalizations and deaths are occurring among the unvaccinated.

As several countries revive unpopular lockdowns, France stopped short of a stay-at-home order.

Ministers did call for employers to make staff work from home three days a week where possible after nationwide infections hit record-high figures.