CDC orders airlines to turn over passenger information on those returning from southern Africa

(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

The CDC issued an order to all airlines late Tuesday to turn over the names and contact information of all passengers who have traveled to specific southern African countries in the past fourteen days. The emergence of the omicron variant is causing actions from the U.S. and other countries to limit and control incoming flights from a select few countries.

The countries listed in the CDC order are Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. The passenger information collected will be sent to local and state public health agencies. Local and state public health agencies are to follow up with recommendations for potential post-arrival viral testing and quarantine and isolation. This new order goes further than an earlier directive on November 8 which required all airlines to collect contact tracing information from all international air passengers. The new order requires the airlines to turn over the names.

The new directive, which took effect late Tuesday and was seen by Reuters, mandates airlines to turn over the information within 24 hours of passengers arriving in the United States who have been in one of the eight African countries.

The collected information includes full name, full address while in the United States, primary contact phone number, secondary or emergency contact phone number, and email address.

On Monday the Biden administration banned nearly all foreign nationals from entering the United States if they have been in one of the eight southern African countries. The administration is sorting out its winter covid strategy and is considering stricter requirements for all travelers, including Americans returning to the country. Besides additional testing requirements, there is also consideration being made to require a seven-day quarantine, even with a negative test result. As Ed asked in a post earlier today, what about the illegal aliens crossing the southern border? They are reported to have a 20% Covid-19 infection rate. Biden’s insistence on returning to the old ways of catch and release policies for those coming into the country illegally is a public health risk, to put it mildly.

Omicron variant cases have been found in 20 countries so far. The directive from the CDC references specific information that will be required on the passengers.

a) Full name (last, first, and, if available, middle or suffix (e.g., Jr.)
b) Address while in the United States (number and street, city, state or territory, and ZIP
Code)
c) Primary phone number to include country and area code, at which the passenger can
be contacted while in the United States
d) Secondary phone number to include country and area code, which may be an
emergency contact number, a work number, or a home number
e) Email address that the passenger will routinely check while in the United States
f) Date of birth
g) Airline name
h) Flight number
i) City of departure
j) Departure date and time
k) City of arrivalit
l) Arrival date and time
m) Seat number

We are being told to not panic, that so far the omicron variance is a quick-spreading virus but it isn’t as hard on patients as earlier variants. The airlines have a 24-hour deadline to turn in the information to our federal health official overlords.

It’s not just the United States that is clamping down on travel passengers coming into the country. Japan, for example, has suspended all new reservations on incoming flights. It isn’t just foreign travelers who are being shut out of Japan, either, it is also Japanese citizens.

Those who have already made reservations are not affected, although flights may be canceled if there are insufficient passengers, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said. Transit passengers are also unaffected, it said. Japan is a major transit hub for flights to and from Asia.

The move comes as Japan confirmed a second case of the omicron variant in a person who arrived from Peru, one day after it reported its first case in a Namibian diplomat.

Japan banned all foreign visitors starting Tuesday as an emergency precaution against the new variant. The ban tentatively extends through the end of the year. The government is also requiring Japanese citizens arriving in the country to quarantine for up to 14 days.

Japan is now offering coronavirus vaccine booster shots to health care workers.

Though we are being told that no omicron variant cases have been detected in the United States. Yet. As a rule, once we are warned about a virus, it is usually already here. It is being detected in South America and in Europe.

The pandemic has shown repeatedly that the virus “travels quickly because of our globalized, interconnected world,” said Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public Health. Until the vaccination drive reaches every country, “we’re going to be in this situation again and again.”

Brazil, which has recorded a staggering total of more than 600,000 COVID-19 deaths, reported finding the variant in two travelers returning from South Africa — the first known omicron cases in Latin America. The travelers were tested on Nov. 25, authorities said.

France recorded its first case, in the far-flung island territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. Authorities said the patient was a man who had returned to Reunion from South Africa and Mozambique on Nov. 20.

The new directive aimed at the airlines is in effect until further notice.