The World Health Organization (WHO) urged countries around the world not to impose flight bans on southern African nations due to concerns over the new omicron variant.
WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, advised countries to follow science and international health regulations in order to avoid using 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,” Moeti said 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.”
Meanwhile, Moeti commended South Africa for following international health regulations and informing 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 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.”
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, emphasized that there is no data yet that suggests the new variant causes more serious illness than previous COVID-19 variants.
“I do think it’s more contagious, when you look at how rapidly it spread through multiple districts in South Africa,” Collins posited on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“With the omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity. COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions,” Moeti said.