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Saturday, January 29, 2022

Here’s How The Omicron Variant Is Impacting International Students

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The new restrictions from the Omicron variant are causing more barriers to international travel, directly affecting students studying abroad.

With colleges and universities shutting down at the start of the pandemic, most airlines have reduced capacity by up to 90% and more than 80 countries have grounded flights to and from the airport. This left international students stranded with few or no options to travel back home.

When the Omicron variant begins to spread, students fear that the same challenges will arise again.

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The United States, for example, is home to the largest number of international students and its travel decisions affect more than one million students.

Recently, it began requiring overseas air travelers to show airlines proof of a negative COVID test result taken within a day of departure before they were allowed to board.

The United States has also banned entry to visitors from South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, the UK is asking vaccinated visitors to book a post-arrival test on their second day in the UK and self-quarantine until they receive a negative result. Unvaccinated people must get a pre-arrival test, self-quarantine for the first 10 days and get two negative tests while they are in quarantine.

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Other countries are also requiring quarantine, testing, and additional COVID safety protocols.

With this said, many students have had to reconsider their travel plans, which means they are likely to spend another holiday season away from home.

“We’re concerned,” Jerry Taylor, co-chair of the American Health Association’s COVID-19 task force, told The Washington Post. “There are a lot of questions that are being asked because of this for sure.”

In the United States, international students study through a temporary nonimmigrant visa. They are usually foreign nationals who are temporarily in the United States on an F1, M1 or J1 visa.

It is common for these students to go home during the school holidays, but the coronavirus has often left them either trapped away from their home country or unable to return to the United States to resume their studies.

The struggles that COVID-19 has brought have also had a direct impact on the number of those who choose to enroll in American colleges and universities.

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In 2020, US schools saw a 72% drop in new international student enrollment compared to 2019, according to a report by immigration and customs authorities.

Notably, enrollment of new international students dropped significantly in August and September, the months that usually see the largest number of enrollments. The report found that in August 2020, there was a 91% drop in F-1 freshman international enrollment and a 72% drop in M-1 freshmen.

The paper noted that many schools expect more international students to stay on campus during the recess period, given concerns about Omicron’s spread to other countries and sudden travel restrictions.

Recently, the World Health Organization announced that travel restrictions imposed by some countries may buy time to fight the new variant of COVID-19 Omicron.

Speaking at a virtual press conference from the Philippines, WHO officials added that measures used to combat the delta variant must work in order to combat the Omicron variant. These measures include pushing for higher vaccination rates, wearing face masks, social distancing, contact tracing, and other measures.

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