Travel bans won’t stop Omicron spread, WHO says

General travel bans will not prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the WHO warned on Tuesday, which recommends those over 60 to postpone their trips.

In its travel recommendations, the World Health Organization (WHO) explains that as of November 28, “56 countries have implemented travel measures aimed at trying to delay the importation of the new variant ”.

But this Geneva-based organization, whose recommendations are far from always being followed by its 194 member states, warns: “General travel bans will not prevent international spread and they place a heavy burden on people. lives and livelihoods ”.

In addition, she points out, these measures “can negatively impact global health efforts during a pandemic by discouraging countries from reporting and sharing epidemiological and sequencing data.”

In its recommendations to the population, the WHO urges “people who are not in good health or who are at risk of developing a severe form of COVID-19 disease and of dying, in particular those aged 60 years or over and those who present with co-morbidities (eg heart disease, cancer and diabetes), to postpone their trip ”.

More generally, it calls on all travelers to “remain vigilant”, to be vaccinated and to follow public health rules regardless of their vaccination status, in particular by using protective masks, by respecting physical distancing measures and avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated spaces.

Last Sunday, the WHO regional office in Africa called for “the borders to remain open” after South Africa called for the “immediate and urgent lifting” of travel restrictions against it after the detection of the new Omicron variant.

In its technical paper, the WHO on Tuesday calls on countries to take a risk-based approach when taking measures, such as passenger screening and quarantines.

“All measures must be proportional to the risk, time-bound and must be applied with respect for the dignity of travelers, human rights and fundamental freedoms,” writes the WHO.

It also recalls, as it had already done extensively in the first months of the pandemic, that “essential international travel – including humanitarian and emergency travel, repatriation and freight transport of essential materials – must remain priority ”.

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