WHO criticizes travel ban in southern African countries

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People wear face masks while walking in Regent Street, London.


  • WHO has urged countries around the world not to impose flight restrictions on southern African countries.
  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called the sanctions “totally unfair”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday urged countries around the world not to impose flight restrictions on southern African countries because of concerns over the new Omicron variant.

WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, called on countries to follow science and international health regulations to avoid using travel restrictions.

“Travel restrictions may play a role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 slightly, but may place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” Moeti said in a statement. “If sanctions are in place, they must not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and must be scientifically based in accordance with International Health Regulations, a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by more than 190 countries “

Moeti praised South Africa for complying with international health regulations and notified the WHO as soon as its national laboratory identified the omicron variant.

“The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new edition is to be commended,” Moeti said. “WHO stands with African countries who dare to boldly share life-saving public health information, while helping to protect the world against the spread of COVID-19.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called the sanctions “totally unfair”.

“The travel ban is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in stopping this type of spread,” it said in a speech on Sunday evening.

“The only thing that would put a travel ban would be further damage to the economies of the affected countries, and reduce the ability to respond, and also to recover from the pandemic.”

On Sunday, cases of the Omicron version of the coronavirus were reported in countries across the globe and many governments rushed to close their borders, even as scientists cautioned that it was unclear whether the new version could be caused by other versions of the virus. more dangerous than that.

While the investigation into the Omicron version is ongoing, the WHO recommends that all countries “take a risk-based and scientific approach and take measures that can limit its potential spread.”

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, emphasized that there is no data yet to suggest that the new variant causes more severe disease than previous COVID-19 variants.

“I think it’s more contagious when you look at how quickly it’s spread to many districts in South Africa,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Israel decided to bar the entry of foreigners, and Morocco said it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks starting Monday – the most stringent of a growing raft of travel restrictions as the nations version scrambled to slow the spread. Scientists from many places from Hong Kong to Europe have confirmed its presence. The Netherlands reported 13 omicron cases on Sunday, and Australia found two.

The US is planning to ban travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries from Monday.

“The Omicron variant has now been detected in many regions of the world, which enforce travel restrictions that make Africa an attack on global solidarity,” Moeti said. “COVID-19 continuously exploits our divisions. We will be better than the virus only if we work together to find a solution.”

WHO said it is increasing its support for genomic sequencing in Africa so that sequencing laboratories have adequate human resources and access to testing reagents to operate at full capacity. The WHO also said it is ready to offer additional help, including surveillance, treatment, infection prevention and community engagement, in southern African countries to strengthen COVID-19 responses, it said .

Read also: ‘Not yet clear’ if omicron over-transmitted, causes serious illness: WHO

Read also: WHO tells countries in South-East Asia region to be alert to ‘Omicron’ variant

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