JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Brett Nestadt boarded a plane headed for Johannesburg. It'd been 3 years since he'd seen his family in South Africa and he was excited for the reunion.
While he was midair, news broke that the omicron variant of COVID-19 had been discovered in South Africa.
"Kind of my nightmare," he told FOX 11.
He spent almost his entire trip quarantining at his parents house.
"It’s a dystopian world, so its been a dystopian trip," he joked.
14-years-ago, Nestadt moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California.
He'd go on to co-found the poke restaurant chain Sweetfin and became an American citizen in January 2020.
A few months later, the pandemic began and he had to cancel plans to return to South Africa.
He thought it'd be safe to return for Thanksgiving 2021.
"Felt at this point in time, it was finally safe to do it after waiting a year," he said.
Shortly after he landed, the travel bans began.
As an American citizen, he was permitted to return home, but flights were being canceled by the day.
Brett decided to end his trip two weeks early and pay twice the price as normal for a ticket back to Newark, New Jersey and eventually Los Angeles.
He said the airport was mostly deserted because so many flights had been cancelled.
"It’s kind of a ghost town, I’ve never seen it this quiet," he said.
Nestadt thinks some of these travel bans targeting South Africa are unfair. Although the variant was initially discovered by doctors there, evidence is mounting it was actually in the Netherlands beforehand.
"It definitely feels unjust," he said.
He continued: "They’ve maintained this blanket ban on South Africa and other countries in the region, even countries that don’t have any cases yet."
He's worried this worldwide attention will create an unfair stigma for South Africa.
"This is their big tourist season," he said. "It’s a huge blow to the country."
He plans to self-isolate when he returns to Southern California. He hopes airlines adjust their policies going forward.
"I think the future should be rapid testing before we get on a plane and rapid testing when you land. Even taking a PCR test a few days ago, doesn’t really tell you where you are when you land in that country," he said.
"We can’t keep going through these huge bans and lockdowns. It doesn’t make sense at this point in the pandemic," Nestadt added.
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