The World Health Organization (WHO) says the latest efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 are required as scientists push to determine the risks posed by the new-detected omicron variant. In addition, low vaccine rates in South Africa are putting public lives at risk. Several countries banned South Africa and its neighboring African countries since South African scientists discovered the new variant last week. The WHO designated omicron a variant of concern that is likely more contagious than all previous variants of coronavirus.
Less than eight percent of Africans received full vaccination shots against COVID-19, which creates a feasible environment for the virus to spread and mutate. The technical officer for the WHO’s Africa office, Dr. Mary Stephen, said in the absence of vaccines, citizens need encouragement to sustain measures to lessen the virus spread and save lives. She added that the public must make sure they wear face masks, avoid unnecessary mass gatherings, keep a suitable distance from others and ensure good hand hygiene. So, it will become another layer of protection against coronavirus in addition to the vaccination.
The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of #COVID19 – incl. Omicron, Delta:
– Keep a safe distance
– Wear a well-fitting mask
– Open windows; avoid poorly ventilated, crowded spaces
– Clean hands
– Cough, sneeze into a bent elbow/tissue
– Get vaccinated pic.twitter.com/71zYJyitSu
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 28, 2021
The U.S., the U.K., and EU Countries Announced to Restrict Flights to and from Southern African Countries
Amid the uncertainty, the United States, the United Kingdom, and European Union countries announced restricting flights to and from southern Africa in an effort to contain the virus spread. However, Stephen said that the omicron variant already spread irrespective of continents and that banning flights to African nations that long enforced testing for travelers is the wrong response. Instead, the world should react to these countries with solidarity, and halting flights is not a solution.
South African President Requested for Lifting of Omicron Travel Bans
Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa, asked countries to urgently reverse scientifically unfair travel restrictions on southern African nations linked to the detection of the omicron, a new coronavirus variant. His Sunday comments came as the highly contagious variant continued spreading globally, with new cases identified in Australia, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Ramaphosa, in his first address to the public after the detection of omicron, said that they requested all those countries that slammed travel restrictions on South Africa and southern African sister nations to reverse their decisions urgently and instantly.
Moreover, he said that science had not emphasized the travel ban. Travel prohibition will further damage the economies of the affected nations and weaken their ability to respond to and recover from the COVID-19. These restrictions are unfair and discriminate against South Africa and southern African countries. The sudden prohibition of flights startled the tourist industry of South Africa and increased the cancelations of bookings after the announcement.
In 2020, the tourism sector of South Africa lost $10 billion in bookings because of a fall in foreign visitors. And it projected to lose around $10 million weekly flights. WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, also criticized travel bans and called on nations to follow international and science health regulations to avoid such measures. She added that travel curbs might play a role in slightly decreasing the spread of coronavirus but place a substantial burden on lives and livelihoods.