With the Omicron variant now detected in various regions of the world, the implementation of travel bans targeting Africa attacks global solidarity
BRAZZAVILLE, Congo (Republic of), November 28, 2021 / APO Group / –
As a growing number of countries impose flight bans on southern African nations due to concerns about the new Omicron variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) urges countries to follow the science and regulation. International Health (2005).
Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19, but they place a great burden on lives and livelihoods. If restrictions are implemented, they must not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and they must be scientifically based, in accordance with the International Health Regulations, which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by more than 190 nations. This week, nations will join a special session of the World Health Assembly, organized by WHO to discuss how to collectively prepare for and better respond to pandemics, building on their commitments to the International Health Regulations.
South Africa followed the International Health Regulations and, as soon as its national laboratory identified the Omicron variant, it informed the WHO of it on 24 November.
“The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant is to be commended. WHO supports African countries that had the courage to boldly share life-saving public health information, helping to protect the world against the spread of COVID-19, ”said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa . “On the eve of a special session on pandemic preparedness, I urge all countries to respect their legal obligations and implement science-based public health actions. It is critical that countries that are open with their data are supported, as this is the only way to ensure that we receive important data in a timely manner. “
While research on the Omicron variant continues, the WHO advises countries to take a scientific, risk-based approach and put in place measures that 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.
“With the Omicron variant now detected in various regions of the world, the implementation of travel bans targeting Africa attacks global solidarity. COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the best out of the virus if we work together to find solutions, ”said Dr. Moeti.
WHO is increasing support for genomic sequencing in Africa. Sequencing laboratories must have access to adequate human resources and test reagents to operate at full capacity. WHO stands ready to support additional human resource needs, as well as mobilize funds and technical expertise to strengthen COVID-19 response activities, including surveillance, treatment and prevention of infections and community engagement in Southern African countries. In addition, WHO is communicating with all countries in the Region to ensure that they receive the necessary resources to detect and prepare for potential cases of Omicron.
The WHO is urging countries to take key steps to improve efforts to track the Omicron variant, including ensuring its PCR test equipment can detect it, increasing its sampling and sequencing of COVID-19 test samples by at least the double to 150 samples per week compared to the current one. average of 75, and review previous sequencing samples for possible signs of Omicron.
In September 2020, the WHO and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a network of 12 laboratories to strengthen the sequencing of the virus genome. Genomic surveillance has advanced significantly since early 2021, with the continent seeing a five-fold increase in the number of sequenced genomes.
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