Does Covid Omicron make Overseas education a bust?

With the advent of a new variant of Covid 19, coined Omicron back in November, it seems like the virus is still set to keep on giving well into the holiday season. From the very get-go, Corona virus has caused a significant number of us to put plans involving overseas travel on hold. While it was bad enough on the tourism side of things, it was significantly worse when it came to education. Prospective students had to make the tough choice of whether to prioritize their health, or their career. Not an easy decision to make. This makes the onset of variant Omicron all the more upsetting, given that it once again puts a lot of plans in disarray.

Thus, we come to the matter at hand. What do we know about the Omicron variant? How has the world reacted to it? What can you as a student do to mitigate the risk should you choose to study abroad? These are some of the questions we hope to answer so that you can figure out how the new Covid 19 variant impacts your travel plans.

The Current Situation

As of December 2nd, 2021 2:00 PM IST, a number of countries have resorted to the tightening of restrictions to contain the Omicron variant. Some of them are as follows:

Italy

While Italy has restricted travelers from South Africa, as well as surrounding countries like Botswana, Eswatini, and Mozambique, study in Italy for Indian students still remains a possibility. Back in October 2021, India was shifted into list E by the Italian government, allowing for work, study, or health related travel. As of now, this has yet to change.

Israel

The borders of Israel have been closed ever since the outbreak of the new variant. As of December 1st, any and all foreigners are barred from entering the country. This ban is supposedly to last for at least 14 days before any further news can be gained on the matter.

Japan

Having previously relaxed their travel ban on November 8th, Japan has barred all foreigners from entering their borders since the outbreak of the Omicron variant. This unfortunately includes students. That being said though, the Japanese government has gone on record to say that this is a temporary measure, and is subject to change.

Australia

Australia has, since the advent of the new variant suspended flights from a list of southern African countries such as South Africa, Namibia ,and Zimbabwe, just to name a few, Indian students can take comfort in the fact that from December 1st, fully vaccinated students and skilled workers can go to Australia without having to apply for a travel exemption, so long as they are able to provide proof of their vaccination status, as well as a negative PCR test taken within 3 days of departure for Australia.

United States

Like many other countries, the United States have also Restricted travel from the aforementioned southern African countries. Aside from that however, they haven’t changed much in way of their travel policies with regards to the new variant. With that being said of course, this too is liable to change on the basis of how matters progress with the Omicron variant.

Spain

As a response to the new variant, the Spanish government has tightened restrictions on a number of southern African nations. However once again, study in Spain for Indian students is still currently viable.

Essentially, what we can gleam from the above information is that for the most part, countries have restricted travel from the southern African nations where the omicron variant has originated, and subsequently blown up. With that being said however it is important to understand that the situation is pretty fluid in that the aforementioned restrictions may relax or tighten on a day-to-day basis with little we can do to predict it. That is just the unfortunate reality to foreign travel that we must come to terms with.

But what exactly is the Omicron variant? And how does it differ from any of the prior variants?

While research into the Omicron variant is still ongoing around the world, this is what we know so far:

With regards to transmissibility, it is not really clear as to whether this new variant is more transmissible (easier to spread from person to person) compared to past variants like Delta. The number of people turning up positive from this variant has certainly increased in south Africa. However, it is not clear as to whether this is because of Omicron or some other factors entirely.

According to the WHO, preliminary evidence seems to suggest an increased risk of reinfection from the Omicron variant. This is to say that people who previously had Covid 19 could become reinfected easier by the omicron variant. However more information is needed before such information can be taken as conclusive.

While research regarding the effectiveness of vaccines against the variant are still underway, the general consensus appears to be that vaccines, at the very least protect from severe disease and fatality. More information is likely to be found in the coming days.

As we have said multiple times so far, all the information that we have on the Omicron variant as of now is very new and concrete information is in short supply. However, should you as a student still be willing to take your education overseas, then here are some precautions that may help get you through safely.

At the end of the day, on an individual standpoint, not much has changed in how we need to deal with the virus. To this day, health experts around the world swear by the usage of masks, and the concept of social distancing, regardless of what variant of the virus is making its rounds. No need to bust out hazmat suits or anything really. Just taking the trouble to wear a mask in public places, and washing your hands after travelling really does make a difference. Essentially, what we’re trying to say is that you being vigilant, and taking all the necessary precautions seriously can go a very long way in keeping you and your near and dear ones safe.

Before concluding this piece, a final message to any prospective overseas students out there. Although the situation today remains as unpredictable as it ever was, it is very important that you not lose hope. Day by day we find out more about the virus, and countries open their gates to fresh talent. In a battle of attrition as we are faced with today, the most important factor is to not lose hope. As long as you keep at it, things are sure to work out one way or another. Thank you so much for having read this piece all the way through. We wish you all the success in the world. Stay safe.

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