Wary, weary world slams doors shut, fearing omicron variant
BRUSSELS (AP) — Nations around the world sought Monday to keep the new omicron variant at bay with travel bans and further restrictions, even as it remains unclear what it means for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Japan announced it would suspend entry of all foreign visitors, while new cases of the variant identified days ago by researchers in South Africa appeared as far apart as Hong Kong, Australia and Portugal. Portuguese authorities were investigating whether some of the infections there could be among the first reported cases of local transmission of the variant outside of southern Africa.
WHO criticizes travel bans on southern African countries over Omicron variant concerns
The World Health Organization on Sunday urged countries around the world not to impose flight bans on southern African nations due to concerns over the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.
WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, called on countries to follow science and international health regulations in order to avoid using travel restrictions.
Omicron travel bans on African countries are ‘Afrophobia,’ Malawi’s president says
The president of Malawi has described travel bans imposed by several nations – including the United States – in response to a new strain of the coronavirus as “Afrophobia,” joining other African leaders in condemning the restrictions.
Many countries have closed their borders to travelers from southern Africa after the new virus variant, dubbed omicron, was identified by South African scientists last week. Experts have warned that travel restrictions probably are too late to be effective, with cases already emerging as far away as Asia and Australia.
The omicron Covid variant is likely to spread further and poses a “very high” global risk, according to the World Health Organization.
It warned Monday that surges of Covid infections caused by the variant of concern could have “severe consequences” for some areas.
The WHO issued a technical brief to its 194 member states on Monday.
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