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WHO hits out at travel bans over omicron COVID-19 variant

WHO hits out at travel bans over omicron COVID-19 variant

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday that temporary travel bans will not prevent the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19 and instead all countries should include any travel-related measures as part of their strategy to fight the deadly virus.

The organization on its website first thanked South Africa and Botswana “for their capacities in surveillance and sequencing and for the speed and transparency” as it helped other countries adjust to the situation, take related measures immediately and give an effective response in the face of such a threat.

It also urged all other countries to act in the same way.

“It is expected that the omicron variant will be detected in an increasing number of countries as national authorities step up their surveillance and sequencing activities,” it said.

“The WHO is closely monitoring the spread of the omicron variant, and studies are ongoing to understand more about these mutations and their impact on transmissibility, virulence, diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines,” the statement added.

The WHO also gave advice to all countries on how to respond to the omicron strain.

“Countries should continue to apply an evidence-informed and risk-based approach when implementing travel measures in accordance with the International Health Regulations (IHR),” it said.

“Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data.”

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