The African Union (AU) on Tuesday called for an “urgent rescinding” of travel bans imposed on some African countries following the emergence of the Omicron variant COVID-19.
Following the announcement by South African scientists of the discovery of the variant in late November, several countries imposed travel restrictions on southern African countries in order to control the spread of the variant.
Some of the countries that have imposed bans include the United States, Britain, and members of the European Union.
The AU said such bans will negatively impact the economies of these countries and limit the ability to access essential medical supplies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that the bans will also prevent researchers and scientists in southern Africa from accessing the reagents needed to monitor, study and characterize the spread of the variant.
“The African Union stresses that PHSM (public health and social measures) interventions aimed at mitigating the risk of infections and controlling the spread of COVID-19 must be targeted to limit the impact on lives and means. livelihoods, and informed by science and evidence. Current evidence, which underscores the global spread and community transmission of the Omicron variant, does not support selective travel bans imposed on southern African countries,” the statement said. UA in a statement released on Tuesday.
The AU also argued that the bans were unfair because some of the affected countries have no evidence of the Omicron variant and are reporting relatively low daily COVID-19 case numbers.
The World Health Organization has previously warned that blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of the variant.
Over 600 cases of Omicron have been detected and reported to the Global Influenza All Data Sharing Initiative by more than 30 countries on all continents.
The AU expressed its disappointment at the reaction of the international community which was an unfair punishment towards African countries for the rapid sharing of data in order to alert the international community.
“The African Union further stresses that penalizing Member States for ensuring timely and transparent dissemination of data in accordance with international health regulations has a chilling effect on information sharing in the future, which could constitute a threat to health security on the continent and around the world”.
The AU also called on the international community to instead focus on increasing vaccination coverage on the continent as an effective way to control the transmission of the virus and prevent the emergence of new variants.
(With the contribution of the agencies)