International (MNN) — The Omicron surge stops international travel in its tracks. More about that here. Currently traveling in Europe, Joe Handley of Asian Access constantly checks for updates and new requirements.
“The situation is very dynamic. I’m going to be in four countries on this trip, and one of them looks like it’s going to require a 10-day quarantine because of the Omicron variant,” Handley says.
“I’m just waiting, [biding] the time to see if things change.”
Asian Access helps churches develop leaders and build capacity in 18 Asian countries. One of those nations – Bangladesh – issued new travel rules on Friday.
“A colleague of mine from Bangladesh was planning to join me [and] they just advised him not to come; we had to cancel his trip,” Handley says.
Health officials know little about the Omicron variant and its effects, but “we are hopeful. The Omicron virus seems to have minor symptoms, so even though it spreads rapidly, [it’s] not as severe as the flu or pneumonia or the original COVID[-19 virus],” Handley says.
“If that [is true], it looks more promising that Asian Access can get back into full gear.”
Asian Access began cutting international travel at the outset of the pandemic and transitioned nearly all of its global team meetings online. “Originally, we were hoping to see [pre-pandemic operations resume] around March ,” Handley says.
If the Omicron variant does not pose a severe threat, “perhaps [our goal] will still be possible; I think we’ll know by the end of January whether or not that’s feasible.”
A few months ago, Asian Access senior leaders hoped to see restrictions eased in Japan. Previously, “they had blocked all foreigners for several months, so we were [hoping] things might start shifting,” Handley says.
Before the Omicron variant surfaced, “they (Japan) had lessened restrictions substantially. Foreigners could go back in with just a three-day quarantine,” he continues.
Now, the trend is reversing. According to Associated Press: “Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed to take strict measures based on a worst-case scenario of a possible resurgence of infections.”
Pray for traveling mercies for Handley and good health for those at risk of infection. Pray the Omicron variant is truly less severe than previous COVID-19 mutations.
“Pray for those who are suffering and impacted by the [new strain],” Handley requests.
“The variant will create a new set of repercussions. As countries close down, that will impact economies; as economies are impacted, the local church is impacted. Their financial viability is at stake. Some of our alumni don’t even have food for the day.”
Header image depicts a woman holding a transparent umbrella in Tokyo, Japan. (Stock photo courtesy of Tore F/Unsplash)