JOHANNESBURG. On Sunday, the World Health Organization called on countries around the world not to impose flight bans on southern African countries over concerns over a new version of the omicron.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti urged countries to abide by scientific and international health regulations to avoid exploiting travel restrictions.
“Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19, but are placing a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” Moeti said in a statement. “When restrictions are imposed, they must not be overly aggressive or intrusive and must be evidence-based in accordance with the International Health Regulations, which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by more than 190 countries.”
Moeti praised South Africa for adhering to international health regulations and informing WHO as soon as its national laboratory identified the omicron option.
“The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world about the new option is to be commended,” Moeti said. “WHO supports African countries that have the courage to share vital public health information to help protect the world from the spread of COVID-19.”
Cases of the omicronic variant of the coronavirus arose in countries on opposite sides of the world on Sunday, and many governments rushed to close their borders, even though scientists warned that it is unclear if the new variant is more worrisome than other versions of the virus.
While research on the omicron variant continues, WHO recommends that all countries “adopt a risk-based scientific approach and take measures that could limit its possible spread.”
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, stressed that there is no evidence yet to indicate that the new variant is causing more serious illness than previous variants of COVID-19.
“I really think it’s more infectious when you look at how quickly it spread to several counties in South Africa,” Collins told CNN’s State of the Union.
Israel has decided to ban foreigners from entering, and Morocco has said it will suspend all arriving flights for two weeks starting Monday, one of the most severe of the growing travel restrictions imposed as countries try to slow the spread of the option. Scientists from several places – from Hong Kong to Europe – have confirmed his presence. The Netherlands reported 13 cases of omicron on Sunday and Australia found two.
The US plans to ban travel from South Africa and seven other South African countries from Monday.
“With a variant of the omicron now found in several regions of the world, imposing travel bans targeting Africa is damaging global solidarity,” Moeti said. “COVID-19 is constantly exploiting our units. We can only defeat the virus if we work together to find solutions. ”
WHO said it is expanding its support for genome sequencing in Africa to ensure that sequencing laboratories have access to adequate human resources and testing reagents to operate at full capacity. WHO also said it stands ready to offer additional assistance in strengthening the COVID-19 response, including surveillance, treatment, infection prevention and community participation in southern African countries, the report said.