WHO warns against travel bans over ‘Omicron’ variant — Analysis

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that countries restricting travel to and from southern Africa to prevent the spread of a “super-mutant” Covid-19 variant are acting too hastily.

“At this point, implementing travel measures is being cautioned against,”Christian Lindmeier, WHO spokesperson, stated Friday during a UN briefing held in Geneva. “The WHO recommends that countries continue to apply a risk-based and a scientific approach when implementing travel measures.”

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This statement was made as other countries, including the UK, Denmark and Spain, took measures to restrict travel from South Africa to neighboring states and South Africa. Ursula von der Leyen, President of European Commission, called for air travel to and from the EU as well as countries reporting cases of B.1.1.529 variants to be suspended until the risk is assessed.

News of the variant set off panic in Europe, where the continent’s first case was confirmed on Friday in Belgium, and caused US stocks to tumble. 

This variant was named Omicron after the Greek letter Omicron and is described as such by the UK Health Security Agency. “the worst one we’ve seen so far.”The first time it was identified in Botswana this month, and since has been widely spread across Southern Africa.

“It will take a few weeks for us to understand what impact this variant has,”Lindmeier stated that scientists were trying to figure out the causes of mutations. “how they may impact diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.”

Omicron has been detected in several countries, and officials from public health are working to prevent its spread. Passengers on two KLM flights from South Africa were forbidden from disembarking at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Friday morning until they had been tested for Covid-19.

Lindmeier advised that any travel restrictions be evaluated carefully before being placed. “Countries can do a lot already in terms of surveillance and sequencing, and work together with affected countries or globally to work scientifically to fight this variant and to understand more about it,”He stated.

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