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Omicron Impact: Travel, Health, and Lives

by Melanie Peterson
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On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization designated variant B.1.1.529 of SARS-CoV-2 (named Omicron) a variant of concern. It was first detected in Botswana on November 11, 2021. This decision was based on the fact that Omicron possesses multiple mutations that can spread more easily and severely. However, its comparison with Delta in terms of spread is still unknown. Even if people are vaccinated or don’t experience moderate symptoms, they can transmit the virus through direct contact (just like the original SARS-CoV-2 virus). 

The Omicron variant is gaining traction all over the world. With its reported cases in different countries, it is quite relevant that this variant may cause fewer cases of hospitalization and deaths. If this turns out to be true, it would be good news for countries that are still facing Delta variant effects.

WHO notes that the omicron variant has a number of mutations in spike protein. This suggests that the new variant poses a greater risk of reinfection in people. Researchers around the world are looking for more relevant data to evaluate the real-world impact of the omicron variant on different populations. Because it’s too soon to confirm facts about the infection, more time and research are required. 

With coronavirus outbreaks and the introduction of its new variant, vaccines have been a major concern. Many COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have put forward an update on the omicron variant in accordance with their formulations. Debates on the action of vaccines and boosters on the new strain are on from the very beginning. For instance, Pfizer and Biotech have issued a detailed update on how their vaccine can interact with the Omicron variant. In the update, it has been demonstrated that the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) can be neutralized by the three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. The data also puts light on the fact that the third dose raises the neutralizing antibody titers. Moreover, two doses may still protect individuals from facing a severe condition. 

Even after fully grasping the importance of getting vaccinated, there are sections of our society that are afraid to take a step ahead. This calls for planning a stronger COVID-19 safety protocol. To prevent havoc worldwide, travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic have been widely implemented. Because of this, people have skipped tours and trips for business, pleasure, and treatments. 

Omicron Travel Restrictions in Delhi

India has suffered from the Delta virus and is, thus, cautious this time. In Delhi, travel restrictions amid the Omicron scare mainly startle those individuals who need to travel for some essential treatment activities. 

As per the updated rules of travel in Delhi, all individuals who will travel from international flights to Delhi need to submit a self-declaration form along with a negative RT-PCR test report on the online portal of ‘Air Suvidha’ prior to traveling. The form must include the details of the places they’ve traveled to in the last 14 days. Note that the COVOD-19 must not be older than 72 hours before the trip.

Besides the capital, several states and UTs have put strict restrictions on domestic and international travelers. The new guidelines in different states came into effect on 1st December 2021. Soon after this, the country got its first Omicron case on Dec 5 who was a Tanzania-return person.

How Omicron Travel Restrictions affect cancer treatments

Be it any variant of SARS-CoV-2, traveling is the first thing that’s affected. Since coronavirus can spread through direct contact, it poses a greater impact on how people move from one place to another. 

Not all kinds of cancer can be treated in a single place. Many cancer patients need to travel periodically for health checkups, cancer medicines, surgeries, and follow-ups. Plus, several cancer therapies are approved only in some specific countries. This makes the cancer treatment culture more diverse. Due to travel restrictions, cancer patients have experienced major concerns. Since they were not able to reach the treatment sessions in time, their health condition got severely affected. Moreover, it was very obvious that the hospitals were crowded because of COVID-19 patients which is why individuals with other diseases suffered. 

Patients undergoing cancer treatment through clinical trials have been facing constant issues because the urgency to see a doctor in such cases is more common. This is especially true for individuals who are suffering from critical-stage cancer. They are required to administer heavy doses of chemotherapy drugs that can cause moderate to severe side effects. Thus, monitoring becomes essential. 

Besides this, traveling to palliative care centers became impossible for cancer patients. Restrictions in buses, trains, and other public transports remained unfavorable for the population. Once Delta variant’s effect started minimizing, there was a relief with respect to health travels until the Omicron variant popped up.

Knowing that it’s not best to travel during the coronavirus pandemic, people who don’t have any other choice need to. Furthermore, some doctors suggested healthy ways of managing cancer-related conditions at home. Vaccinations also played a vital role in easing the travel process for cancer patients. 

Summarizing Omicron Impact

  • The Omicron variant was declared a variant of concern by WHO on grounds of scientists’ research. With this, this variant is also considered to be more contagious, i.e., it may more easily spread from one person to another via direct contact.
  • It has been put forward by different health agencies that vaccinations against coronavirus can help in decreasing the severity of the infection in patients who test positive for the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. 
  • Since it’s easier to get the new variant (as compared with the Delta variant), it became important for the authorities to bring travel restrictions back to action. With the same preventive insight, pharmaceutical companies who’ve manufactured COVID-19 vaccines have released information on how effective their vaccines are in interacting with the new variant. 
  • Restricting international travel is one of the prominent steps by different governments to put a full stop to the rapid spread of the virus. However, it is not good news for patients with cancer or other severe diseases. This is because traveling for health concerns during such restrictions becomes hectic for the patients and the caretaker. 
  • Some countries have put travel restrictions based on the vaccination status of people. It means that individuals who are fully vaccinated have more travel opportunities and freedom than those who have not yet got their first shot. 
  • Many cancer foundations and NGOs have impacted patients’ lives by giving them access to treatment resources including medications, a home sample collection facility for routine tests, and virtual appointments with oncologists

As per WHO, during the COVID-19 pandemic, important foreign travel, including travel for emergency and humanitarian missions, travel of essential personnel, repatriations, and cargo delivery of essential supplies, must be prioritized at all times.

All in all, it is better to prevent than to suffer. People have concerns about their health travels and vaccines’ effects on the Omicron variant. Thus, scientists around the world are collecting relevant data to clear the doubts and explain the interaction among different COVID-19 vaccines, Omicron variant, and Cancer. Since the variant has not been found and studied in all age groups and groups with underlying diseases, it is better to wait rather than jump to predictive conclusions. 

Symptoms

Symptoms of kidney problems in cancer patients:

  • Blood in your urine
  • Pain in your back
  • Foamy urine
  • Frequent urination

Symptoms of liver problems in cancer patients:

  • Dark urine
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Chronic fatigue

Symptoms of heart problems in cancer patients:

  • High blood pressure
  • Signs of heart attack (chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and stomach ache)
  • Fainting 
  • Fast heart rate

Pregnancy and cancer symptoms:

  • Bloating 
  • Changes in the breast (shape, size, color)
  • Darkened nipples
  • Rectal bleeding 
  • Persistent pain in your head

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