Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised people who are sick or vulnerable to serious illness or death as a result of COVID-19, including people over the age of 60, to postpone travel to hotspot areas.

In its latest guidance to authorities and travelers, the WHO said that people over the age of 60 who are not fully vaccinated or have no evidence of previous SARS-COV-2 infection and people with underlying health conditions should be advised to postpone travel to areas in community infection as they are at greater risk of disease and death.

“Persons who are ill or who have not been fully vaccinated or have no evidence of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection and are at increased risk of developing serious illness and death, including persons 60 years of age or older or persons with comorbidities “The current increased risk of severe COVID-19 (eg heart disease, cancer and diabetes) should be advised to postpone travel to community-based areas,” the WHO Council said.

The advice comes after the advent of the Omicron variant.

For the first time reported in southern Africa a week ago, the variant has brought global alarm, led to travel bans and highlighted the difference between massive vaccination advances in rich countries and sparse inoculation in developing countries.

Dutch authorities have since said the Omicron variant was discovered in the Netherlands a week before it was reported by South African authorities.

The UN health agency said countries should apply “an evidence-informed and risk-based approach” to all travel measures related to the Omicron variant of coronavirus, including any screening or quarantine of international passengers.

But it said general bans would not prevent the spread.

A woman with dark hair in a dress stands with her hands on her hips at an airport counter with a trolley nearby
The World Health Organization has called on countries not to impose a flight ban on South African nations because of the new Omicron variant.(AP: Jerome Delay)

“Measures may include screening passengers before travel and / or on arrival and using SARS-COV-2 testing or quarantine of international travelers after thorough risk assessment,” it states.

All measures should be proportionate to the risk, time-limited and applied with regard to the rights of travelers, it states.

About 56 countries reportedly implemented travel measures with the aim of potentially delaying imports of Omicron on November 28, it added.

Australia has banned flights from nine countries in southern Africa: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.

The government has said the additional border security measures were proportionate, based on medical advice and were a precaution to protect Australians.

South Africa’s leader and others have criticized the travel ban, saying they were punished for their transparency and warning the world about the new variant.

Reuters / ABC

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