A new variant of the coronavirus, Omicron, has been found in South Africa, prompting various countries to ban it from circulating in South Africa.
South Africa’s president has criticized travel bans imposed on his country. He has questioned the justification for such a travel ban.
“The travel ban is not based on science, nor is it effective in stopping the spread of this variant,” said Cyril Ramaphosa.
So what does science say?
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
Image source, GETTY IMAGES
What does the World Health Organization say?
Following the confirmation of the origin of Omicron, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement that a complete travel ban would not stop the spread of the variant.
He is of the opinion that travel ban will make people’s lives and livelihood difficult.
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When the coronavirus epidemic began in 2020, the WHO said travel bans would not be appropriate and effective, but would have a negative economic and social impact.
“Travel measures that significantly interfere with international traffic are justified at the outset of an outbreak because they can give countries time to regain control,” he said at the time.
Image source, REUTERS
The World Health Organization’s statement was criticized by then-US President Donald Trump. His decision to suspend flights from China and Europe failed.
The group’s suggestion was ignored by Asian countries such as Singapore and Taiwan, which initially imposed travel bans on China. Later other countries of the world took similar steps.
Since then, the organization has updated the guidelines and now calls for a travel ban “on a risk basis.”
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that people should be aware of the growing immunity of people to vaccines or infections. He believes that the effectiveness of measures such as proliferation and testing and quarantine should be taken into account when imposing international travel bans.
However, he said countries concerned that a variant of the virus could pose a threat would need to take precautionary measures and impose travel restrictions even tighter for a limited period of time.
He said the measures should be “proportional”.
What is scientific evidence?
A study conducted after the initial phase of the epidemic last year said that the travel bans imposed in the early stages would have an initial effect in easing the virus.
Research published in the journal Nature in December 2020 found that even if it worked at the outset, a slower travel ban would be less effective.
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A study conducted last October by the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in Germany, which conducted a study on travel bans and mortality in more than 180 countries, found similar findings.
His study of efficacy concluded as follows:
The travel bans imposed by countries before the deaths of 10 or more people were confirmed had a profound effect
Compulsory quarantine for passengers was more effective than restriction on entry (resulting in some citizens having to return home).
The effect of the ban on specific countries was greater than the one-size-fits-all ban on all foreign travelers
According to a study conducted at the beginning of the epidemic in the UK, more than a thousand people have been diagnosed with covidia during the short travel ban. They came mostly from European countries.
So far, the Omicron variant has been confirmed in at least a dozen countries and is gradually spreading to other countries.
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Infectious pathologist at Queen Mary University of London, Dr. Speaking to BBC News, Deepti Gurdasani said that despite the travel ban slowing down the transmission, the coronavirus has already spread to many parts of the world.
“There should be a better policy of testing and isolation than a travel ban that slows down the spread,” she said.
Airport in the Netherlands
Image source, GETTY IMAGES
The main difference now compared to the early stages of the epidemic is that vaccines are now being given around the world.
However, the speed of vaccination varies from country to country. And it is not clear how effective the vaccine is for the Omicron variant.
Countries that rely heavily on tourism have also weighed in on the impact of travel bans on the economy.
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Where is the strict travel ban?
Australia reopened its international borders for the first time in November after an 18-month ban. In the meantime, only those citizens with special permission can enter or leave the country Rin was found.
But now again, it has plans to allow foreign students and skilled workers.
Image source, REUTERS
New Zealand has closed its borders since last year.
However, Sakkar said his citizens and foreigners with visas would be allowed to come from Australia from the New Year and vaccinated people from April.
The border has been opened since this month with a long travel ban in Vietnam.
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As of July of this year, relatively few people were infected in these countries.
At that time, the first known delta variant was spreading in India.
But at least in the early stages, woodcuts, extensive testing and safety measures could be just as important as travel bans to keep infections at bay.