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Blanket travel bans ‘attack global solidarity’, says World Health Organization

Blanket travel bans “attack global solidarity” and “will not prevent the international spread” of the omicron coronavirus variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

Speaking of the widespread travel restrictions that have been ramped up in response to the threat from the new variant, which was first identified in South Africa, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said: “Covid-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions.”

He added that blanket bans “place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods” while not stemming the spread of the virus.

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When South Africa informed the world about the latest variant of concern to be detected, it was swiftly penalised, with countries around the world, including the UK, imposing strict bans on entry.

The British government put a total of 10 African nations back on its red list, meaning only British citizens and residents can enter the UK from them and must pay thousands of pounds for an 11-night quarantine in a government-mandated hotel.

WHO officials have praised South Africa and Botswana’s actions around the omicron variant, saying that the countries should be applauded, not sanctioned.

“The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant is to be commended,” said Moeti.

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“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.”

Since omicron was first identified, it has been detected in at least 24 countries, including the UK, US, Australia and France.

Some countries, such as Japan, Israel and Morocco, have banned all international travellers in response, while others have imposed tighter restrictions.

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Brits travelling to Switzerland must quarantine for 10 days, while all non-EU travellers must present a negative Covid test to enter France from 4 December.

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