The current global COVID wave worldwide has exploded as Omicron quickly becomes the predominant variant and appears more contagious than prior variants. For example, in the US, 80% of cases sequenced in the last two weeks are Omicron. See https://ourworldindata.org/covid-cases for data.
Given the rapid increase in COVID cases worldwide affecting most countries, including all US states combined with increased airline operations over the holidays (particularly the US), commercial crew have not been exempted from exposures nor COVID and other viral illnesses circulating. See risk level US map in https://covidactnow.org/?s=27751665.
This has overloaded COVID testing sites and health care providers, so there are significant difficulties in arranging timely COVID testing and provider appointments. Additionally, COVID test results can be delayed, and providers can have significant waits.
Finally, the more learned about the Omicron variant, such as its transmissibility, duration, the severity of illness, protection from vaccination, or prior illness, health authorities worldwide are disparately updating their quarantine and isolation guidelines (CDC twice last week). As a result, it makes clearance from quarantine and international travel more complicated, impacting destination entry requirements.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- How long do I need to self-isolate?
MedAire's advice is aligned with the CDC, if you have any COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive you need to stay at home and isolation can end after day 5 - operating can be considered if fever-free over 48 hours. Your self-isolation period starts as soon as your symptoms started or as soon as tested postive with LFD or PCR test (even if you don‘t have symptoms).
- United Kingdom
See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection#looking-after-your-health-and-wellbeing for details. As of January 17th, people in England can end their self-isolation after five days if they test negative on both day five and day six and do not have a temperature in line with guidance. Those who still test postive on their rapid lateral flow tests must stay in isolation until they have had two consective negative tests taken on seperate days.
See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/self-isolation-for-those-with-covid-19-can-end-after-five-full-days-following-two-negative-lfd-tests for updated guidance. Clients should be advised to routinely check ECDC guidelines given the rapid change in situation and guidance.
- United States
See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/international-travel-during-covid19.html#anchor_1634925927097 for guidance if you have been exposed or are experiencing symptoms.
See https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/news-events/ecdc-updates-guidance-regarding-quarantine-and-isolation-considering-spread-of-omicron for updated requirements due to the rapid spread of Omicron in EU/EEA.
- Do I need to quarantine if I have had a close contact exposure?
This will depend on vaccination status and now including booster and guidelines from the authorities of the country the crew member is in and destination country (if different). For example, in the US, as of yesterday, CDC adult recommendation is quarantine following close contact unless having received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters, or have recovered from COVID within the last 90 days. Quarantine has been recently reduced to five days from exposure within the US, with COVID testing recommended after five days continuing to wear a well-fitted mask when around others at home and in public until ten days after last close contact. See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html for details. Clients should be advised to routinely check CDC guidelines given the rapid change in situation and guidance.
- Do I need to quarantine if I have symptoms?
Yes. Until tested for COVID and preferably seen by a health care provider, one should assume they have COVID if any COVID like symptoms and isolate. This recommendation does NOT depend on vaccination status. Within the US, the CDC recommendations for isolation have been reduced to five days if fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications and symptoms have improved. A well-fitting mask should be worn when around others at home or in public for five additional days (day 6-10) after the end of isolation. However, COVID antigen (rapid) testing is recommended if accessible after day five and if positive isolation should continue until day ten.
- Are there any other recommendations for additional guidelines from CDC for air crew?
MedAire's advice is inline with the CDC, review their updated requirements at the links below.
Available information is evolving rapidly, check border closures and travel restrictions frequently ahead of any planned travel. MedAire’s COVID Restriction database is kept up-to-date in real time as changes are announced. You can access this information and much more through the COVID-19 Pandemic site within the MedAire Member Portal.