JANEEN CHRISTOFF | TravelPulse.Com
The World Health Organization praised the countries of South Africa and Botswana for their swift identification of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 and criticized travel restrictions.
“Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” said WHO’s regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti in a statement. “If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations, which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by over 190 nations.”
Moeti noted the efficiency of the African nations in identifying the variant.
“The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant is to be commended,” said Moeti. “WHO stands with African countries which had the courage to boldly share life-saving public health information, helping protect the world against the spread of COVID-19.”
Cases of the new variant have cropped up around the globe since South Africa raised the alarm, including in the U.K., Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia, Hong Kong and more.
WHO recommends that all countries should take a risk-based, scientific approach to limit the spread. While the new variant holds many mutations and evidence suggest that it is more contagious, there is no evidence that it is more deadly.
Many countries have gone farther than the U.S. with travel bans. Israel has barred all foreigners and Morocco has suspended all incoming flights for two weeks.
“With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity,” said Moeti. “COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions.”
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