Winnipeggers scramble to alter travel arrangements in wake of rising omicron variant concerns

Sally Salib was in tears Wednesday.

The fully vaccinated mother-to-be is in Cairo, her pre-Christmas flight home cancelled, as concerns over the COVID-19 omicron variant spreads.

“We are stuck in Egypt right now and we don’t know when we will come back to Canada,” Salib said in a Zoom interview.

She journeyed to the northern African nation three weeks ago for a vacation and to be there for her pregnant sister.

As a result of the federal government banning travel from Egypt and nine other African countries in the wake of omicron, Salib is no longer able to travel to Canada directly from Egypt.

“My husband’s still in Canada so I didn’t know how to see him again. It’s so hard,” Salib said.

Whether you’re vaccinated or not, all travellers coming to Canada from a banned country have to go to another country first and get a negative test there before continuing on to Canada.

Travellers then have to get tested again at whatever Canadian airport they arrive through, and quarantine until those results come back.

A negative COVID test will allow travellers the ability to continue home, but for those returning from a banned country, a 14-day quarantine is required — with another test one week into the self-isolation period.

“We need more flexible rules. We are fully vaccinated, we do everything as they said. The government said go get fully vaccinated and we do that because we love and respect the government.

“They have to respect us as well,” Salib said.

She’s not the only Winnipegger forced to scramble to change travel plans.

Josephine Nwaokike was going to Nigeria to celebrate Christmas with her husband, Kachi, and his family.

The couple has not seen each other in almost three years, but they planned to be together for two weeks over the holidays.

“I was packing. I was excited. I was going to see my husband, my family out there. Picked up gifts over the last six months for them, for the kids,” she told CBC.

Since Nigeria is also among the African nations under a travel ban imposed by Ottawa, their time apart will be extended.

Josephine Nwaokike was going to Nigeria to celebrate Christmas with her husband, Kachi, and his family, but she chose to cancel her trip. (Sam Samson/CBC)

Nwaokike has cancelled her trip, but she still intends to find a way to send all of the presents to Nigeria.

“When it’s true love, nothing is too little and … no variant can stop you,” she said.

‘Very stressful’ situation

Trish Reardon isn’t letting the chatter surrounding omicron derail her trip to the United Kingdom.

She is flying from Winnipeg to the British Isles on Sunday to see her son and grandchildren, and spread the ashes of her mother, who died during the pandemic.

Reardon says the situation surrounding omicron is “very stressful,” but she is not worried about being stuck overseas.

“We’re going for our mental health to visit our family, spread my mom’s ashes. This isn’t helping my mental health.

“I’ve done everything that’s been asked of me. I’ve tried to. And now I’m frustrated because I don’t know what we’ll do when we come back in February. They haven’t really explained anything,” Reardon said.

Trish Reardon is looking forward to seeing her grandchildren. She is flying from Winnipeg to the United Kingdom on Sunday to see them again, but she is concerned her journey home might be impacted by rising concern tied to the COVID-19 omicron variant. (Submitted by Trish Reardon)

She recently tried getting her COVID booster shot. She was told she’d have to wait until the new year because that would mark six months since she received her second dose of the vaccine.

“I’m expecting to be able to go and come back because nobody has told me any different because I’ve [received] my vaccine,” she said.

Reardon hopes that doesn’t impact her ability to fly home.

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