'A heavy burden on lives': WHO criticises travel bans over Omicron variant

“Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of Covid-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” WHO's regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement on Sunday.
Since the discovery of the Omicron variant, several countries have imposed travel bans on the affected region in southern Africa.(Reuters Photo)
Since the discovery of the Omicron variant, several countries have imposed travel bans on the affected region in southern Africa.(Reuters Photo)
Published on Nov 29, 2021 11:52 AM IST
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Written by Harshit Sabarwal | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi, New Delhi

The World Health Organization (WHO) has criticised the travel bans imposed on southern African countries in wake of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 by saying that these restrictions place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.

“Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of Covid-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” WHO's regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement on Sunday.

She called on countries to follow science and international health regulations to avoid using travel bans.

South Africa's president Cyril Ramaphosa also called the travel bans as completely unjustified, adding it will not be effective in controlling the spread of Omicron. Ramaphosa said the only thing that travel bans will do is further damage to the economies of affected countries.

Since the discovery of the Omicron variant, several countries including the United States (US), the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and others have imposed travel bans on the affected region in southern Africa. It has been reported that Omicron has a higher number of mutations and spreads very quickly.

The United States has given exceptions in its travel ban for American citizens, and permanent residents. On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that all international arrivals will be barred, days after the government imposed quarantine rules for Japanese nationals coming back to the country from South Africa and eight other nearby countries.

Matshidiso Moeti on Sunday also lauded South Africa for informing the United Nations' body about the variant as soon as it identified it. “The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant are to be commended," the top WHO official further said.

Currently, the WHO has said that it is not yet clear whether omicron is more transmissible or causes more severe disease compared to other variants of Covid-19. It will take days to weeks to understand the level of severity of omicron, the WHO said.

 

 

 

 

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Thursday, January 27, 2022