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People line up to board an Air France flight to Paris at Or Tambo airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, on November 26. The United States, Israel and other European countries have already imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and other countries in the region.
People line up to board an Air France flight to Paris at Or Tambo airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, on November 26. The United States, Israel and other European countries have already imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and other countries in the region. ,
When the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was first identified in South Africa, the country’s scientists informed global health leaders about the new mutation they had found.
Although scientists know little about the new variant and are not sure where it originated, several countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, and the European Union. Announced almost immediate travel restrictions from South Africa and other Southern African countries. The restrictive measures triggered an outcry from some health officials and experts who warn imposing restrictions are premature and could lead to harmful precedent.
“Such restrictions are of little utility,” Saad Omar, director of the Yale Institute of Global Health, told NPR. “Unfortunately, from what we know about the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 and this type of epidemiology, the horse may have left the barn,” Omar said, explaining the high transmission potential of this coronavirus and its variants. Seeing it.
And even though the Omicron variant has been reported in many other countries in Europe, Asia, and North America, travel restrictions have been imposed only on southern African countries. One of the identified cases of the Omicron type in Belgium had no contact with or travel to any nation in southern Africa, suggesting that community spread may have already occurred.
“If the question is about preventing the variant from arriving, it doesn’t really make sense to exempt the countries where it has been identified and it has more direct flights than southern Africa,” Omar said.
The economic and other consequences we are seeing today as a result of travel restrictions from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent study from the journal Science shows that restricting international travel in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic had some effect on delaying the spread, but the researchers said restricting travel is only effective if the means of hand-washing, isolation and early detection are associated with preventing the spread of infection. ,
In another study, emergency management journalconcluded that little evidence exists to prove that international travel restrictions are effective in controlling the spread of infectious disease, and that such measures should be taken only when recommended by the World Health Organization. As with the Omicron version, the WHO has already cautioned against imposing travel restrictions.
While imposing travel restrictions could also give a false sense that the virus was being contained, such policies could also make it more difficult for health care workers and other resources to move, the researchers said. Additionally, the stigma of travel restrictions may exacerbate racism and xenophobia, according to Nicole Erratt of the University of Washington, who was lead author on it. emergency management journal Study.
Omar of the Yale Institute of Global Health has another concern about enforcing travel restrictions during a public health crisis: It could undermine commitment to scientific transparency. When countries that are proactive about disclosing the spread of the virus are hit by travel restrictions, he said, that minimizes the case for health officials to come to terms with what’s happening in their countries. .
“You don’t want a situation where, a month from now, a country’s health minister … gets a result of the virus indexed and he says, ‘Well, if it’s widespread, it’s going to come out somehow. Going to do. Why should the country be the first?’ And that cycle begins,” Omar said.
Omar said addressing vaccine inequality around the world is the best way to prevent these new variants from emerging. “If there are more broadcast programs going on with every hour, every day, every week, then the chances of one variant emerging,” he said.
And one of the most effective ways to address inequality, Omar said, is to allow all regions, especially low-income countries, to produce their own vaccines. It’s too early to tell whether the Omicron variant in particular will become a serious public health threat, Omar said, “but that doesn’t mean we’re not playing with fire by continuing vaccine disparity.”
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