An epidemiologist says it is safe to travel this Christmas season, even with the Omicron and Delta variants, as long as you are fully vaccinated and are very cautious.

Canada is facing the second winter holiday season during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what now appears to be an even more communicable variant is spreading.

Nazeem Muhajarine said it is okay to continue traveling if you are taking proper security measures to ensure “you don’t bring in unwanted guests, like Omicron.”

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He also said that the ability to travel shouldn’t make anyone think that the Omicron variant is not serious.

“We need to recognize that this is a looming threatening situation that is moving in our direction.”

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In terms of safety, he said that all travelers, as well as guests and hosts, should be fully vaccinated. And he said everyone should get their booster shots as soon as possible.

In addition to that, all travelers must wear a mask when traveling and when around someone with unknown vaccination status. He said people should avoid other people if they don’t know their vaccination status.

Small indoor gatherings with an open window are best, if you don’t want to meet outside. And anyone traveling should use rapid antigen tests before departure and after arrival to make sure they have not been infected with the virus.

“It is likely that Omicron is circulating in our province,” he said.

“It will be a matter of days and weeks before we start to see that (in numbers of cases and infections). Now is the time to act. “

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For Carly Greschuk, acting means staying home.

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“You never know if you’re making the right decision,” she said, describing taking her two children to an indoor Christmas festival on Sunday.

“Now with another variant available, it’s almost like starting over from scratch.”

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Her two children are too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and she is immunosuppressed.

For the second winter vacation season, they will not travel to see family and stay home, where it is safest.

“My two-year-old has never had a full family Christmas,” she said, “because he was a COVID baby.”

She and her husband canceled their plans to go to Edmonton after the WHO declared the omicron variant a concerning variant.

The past 20 months have been difficult, he said, and they have made sacrifices to keep their children safe.

Greschuk postponed a year of school so he could stay home to care for his children and help limit family contact.

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That precaution may have caused other families to stay home for the holidays as well.

Andy Gibbons, WestJet’s vice president for government relations, told Global News that some customers were putting off travel in December, traditionally one of the busiest times for air travel of the year.

It did not provide specific data on the postponed flights, stating that they are commercially sensitive.

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(Global News also reached out to Air Canada and a spokesperson provided the same response via email. Flair Air said in an email that it is seeing strong bookings across the country this holiday season, but did not quantify that statement.)

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“But we also see people asking questions and taking reservations,” Gibbons said, speaking from Ottawa.

He told Global News that flights in and out of the province have picked up a bit from the nearly 70 percent drop during the pandemic, driven by federal policy that only allows fully vaccinated people on planes.

“People can be sure that when they get on one of our planes, whether they go to Puerto Vallarta or Calgary or Vancouver or Toronto, everyone on that plane is vaccinated,” he said.

What air travelers really need, he added, is more information about the Omicron variant and federal travel restrictions and testing guidelines.

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Justin Reves, customer experience manager for Regina International Airport, said airport staff are answering more questions about established procedures.

He said traffic at the airport is down 47 percent since December 2019. But that’s still an increase from last November.

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He said he expects a busy December even with the Omicron variant “because it was very early and there are unknowns, but I think people are still hopeful that things will turn out reasonably well.”

But not Greschuk.

She said they can travel in January after the rush, but will stay home for now.

“I’m glad we’re all here to celebrate and that we can celebrate in some way this year.”

Click to play video: 'Canada implements strict new travel rules to deal with Omicron variant'

Canada implements strict new travel rules to deal with the Omicron variant

Canada Implements Strict New Travel Rules to Deal with Omicron Variation – Dec 3, 2021

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