(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged nations to lift travel bans and mandatory vaccination for entry into countries despite the rapid spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant around the world.
Despite the increase in infections, the WHO has argued that closed borders failed to contain omicron that was first detected in South Africa last November.
At the time of its emergence, Jamaica joined dozens of countries that immediately imposed travel bans on eight southern African nations. But, the damage was already done as omicron soon showed up in numerous countries in a matter of weeks. The travel bans were soon reversed but now the WHO wants countries to go further.
“The failure of travel restrictions introduced after the detection and reporting of omicron variant to limit the international spread of omicron demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such measures over time. Travel measures should be based on risk assessments and avoid placing the financial burden on international travellers in accordance with Article 40 of the IHR [International Health Regulations},” the WHO said in a statement.
It further said that the state parties should consider a risk-based approach to the “facilitation of international travel by lifting or modifying measures, such as testing and/or quarantine requirements, when appropriate.”
Apart from this, the committee praised South Africa for its rapid identification of the omicron variant.
Meanwhile, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned global leaders that the COVID pandemic “is nowhere near over” adding that the omicron variant is causing hospitalisations and deaths the world over.
“Make no mistake, omicron is causing hospitalisations and deaths, and even the less severe cases are inundating health facilities,” Tedros said.
“Omicron may be less severe, on average, but the narrative that it is a mild disease is misleading, hurts the overall response and costs more lives,” he added.
He also cautioned global leaders that “with the incredible growth of omicron globally, new variants are likely to emerge, which is why tracking and assessment remain critical”.