WHO Supports African Nations, Kicks Against Border Closures

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken sides with African Nations and has called for countries to leave their borders open.

WHO conveyed the message in a press statement released on November 28,2021, explaining that restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but sadly, it also places a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.

TheFact Nigeria recalled that following announcement of the Omicron covid-19 variant found in South Africa, countries like the United Kingdom placed travel restrictions on 6 African countries namely: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini.

According to the statement however, WHO has urged countries to follow science and the International Health Regulations (2005), as growing number of countries impose flight bans on Southern African nations due to concerns over the new Omicron variant.

It cautioned that travel restrictions played a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but consequently, place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.

WHO therefore added that if restrictions were 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.

It posited that South Africa followed International Health Regulations and as soon as its national laboratory identified the Omicron variant informed WHO of this on the 24 November. Commending the country for this action, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said:

“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.

“On the eve of a special session on pandemic preparedness I urge 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,” she explained.

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.

“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,” said Dr. Moeti.

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