The World Health Organisation, WHO, has warned that putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity.

Giving the warning in a press statement on Sunday, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti said travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.

Moeti, added that: “With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity.

“COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions. If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by over 190 nations.”

Moeti commended the transparency of South African and Botswana for sharing life-saving public health information.

“The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant is to be commended. WHO stands with African countries which had the courage to boldly share life-saving public health information, helping protect the world against the spread of COVID-19.”

She disclosed that nations will be joining a special session of the World Health Assembly to discuss how to collectively prepare and respond better to pandemics, building on their commitments to the International Health Regulations.

Moeti urged all countries to respect their legal obligations and implement scientifically based public health actions.

“It is critical that countries which are open with their data are supported as this is the only way to ensure we receive important data in a timely manner.

“While investigations continue into the Omicron variant, WHO recommends countries to take a risk-based and scientific approach and put in place measures which can limit its possible spread. Flight bans have been imposed on southern African countries, but so far only two have detected the new variant. Meanwhile, countries in other regions have reported cases of Omicron.”

WHO said it is scaling up support to genomic sequencing in Africa.

Sequencing laboratories should have access to adequate human resources and testing reagents to work at full capacity, the statement read.

“WHO is ready to support the additional human resource needs as well as mobilize funds and technical expertise to reinforce COVID-19 response activities including surveillance, treatment and infection prevention and community engagement in southern African countries.”

In addition, the WHO said it is reaching out to all countries in the region to ensure they receive the necessary resources to detect and prepare for potential cases of Omicron.

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