People queue at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa on Friday to catch the Air France flight to Paris. The United States, Israel, and other European nations have already imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and other nations in the region. Jerome Delay / AP Hide caption

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Jerome Delay / AP

People queue at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa on Friday to catch the Air France flight to Paris. The United States, Israel, and other European nations have already imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and other nations in the region.

Jerome Delay / AP

When the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was first identified in South Africa, scientists were in the country inform quickly global health leaders about the new mutations they had found.

Although scientists have little information about the new variant and aren’t sure where it came from, several countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union announced almost immediately Travel bans from South Africa and other South African countries.

At the beginning of the week, Japan followed suit with far more restrictive measures.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Monday the decision to restore entry requirements for foreign travelers in order to limit the possible spread of the Omicron variant. This comes just a few weeks after the country’s borders reopened on November 8th.

Kishida told reporters the move was “a temporary measure until information about the Omicron variant becomes clear”.

Israel a blanket ban was also introduced to all foreigners on Sunday night after restrictions for travelers only from countries in southern Africa were initially introduced. According to the Jerusalem Post, Under this new policy, anyone returning from any country – including vaccinated Israelis – must isolate themselves in the country for three days.

The restrictive measures ignited worldwide Outcry by some health officials and experts warning that the bans are premature and could have a harmful effect precedent.

“These types of bans are of very little use,” Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute of Global Health, told NPR.

“Unfortunately, based on what we know about the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 and the epidemiology of this variant, the horse has probably left the stable,” said Omer, pointing to the high transmissibility of this coronavirus and its variants.

And although the Omicron variant has been reported in several other countries in Europe, Asia and North America, travel bans are largely imposed on the southern African countries.

One of the identified cases of the Omicron variant in Belgium had no contact or travel with any nations in southern Africa, suggesting that community spread may already be taking place.

“When it comes to preventing the variant from being introduced, there really is no point in excluding countries where it has been identified and which have even more direct flights than southern Africa,” said Omer.

Studies show that travel bans cannot contain the spread of disease

Travel bans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic led to economically and miscellaneous Consequences that we can still see today.

A Recent study from Science magazine shows that restricting international travel in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic had some impact on delaying the spread, but researchers said restricting travel is only really effective when done with combating the spread of infection through hand washing. Isolation and early detection.

Other to learn, in the Journal of Emergency Management, concluded that there is little evidence that international travel bans can effectively contain the spread of infectious diseases and that such action should only be taken on the recommendation of the World Health Organization. With the omicron variant, the The WHO has already warned against this Impose travel bans.

Dr. Margaret Harris, public health doctor and spokesperson for the World Health Organization, told NPR’s Morning Edition that the restrictions give countries some “breathing space” in their early responses to Omicron.

She urged governments to “make the most of this time. Build your hospital capacity, build your tracking and tracing, build your surveillance, prepare for it. “

However, Introducing a travel ban may create the false impression that the virus is being contained, researchers said, adding that such guidelines can also make it difficult to transport health workers and other resources.

In addition, the stigma of travel bans can exacerbate racism and xenophobia. after Nicole Errett from the University of Washington, the lead author of the Journal of Emergency Management study.

Travel bans could lead to less scientific transparency

Omer of the Yale Institute of Global Health has another concern about the introduction of travel bans during a public health crisis: it can dampen commitment to scientific transparency.

When countries that proactively disclose the spread of a virus are hit by travel restrictions, he said it undermines the case for health officials about what is happening in their countries.

“You don’t want a situation where a state health minister in a month … gets a result of a sequenced virus and says, ‘OK, if it’s that widespread, it will come out from another country anyway, why be the first?’ And that cycle begins, “said Omer.

Addressing vaccine inequality around the world is the best way to prevent these new varieties from emerging, Omer said.

“As more broadcast events happen with every hour, with every day, with every week, the likelihood that a variant will show up increases,” he said.

And one of the most effective ways to tackle inequality, according to Omer, is to allow all regions, especially low-income countries, to produce their own Vaccinations.

It is too early to say whether the Omicron variant in particular will pose a serious public health threat, Omer added.