Moeti praised South Africa for following international health regulations and informing WHO as soon as the national laboratory identified the variant.

“The speed and transparency of the governments of South Africa and Botswana in informing the world about the new variant are to be commended,” said Moeti. “The WHO stands by the side of African countries that have had the courage to courageously share life-saving public health information to help protect the world from the spread of Covid-19.”

Cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus surfaced in countries on opposite sides of the world on Sunday, and many governments rushed to close their borders, despite scientists warning that it is not clear whether the new variant is more alarming than other versions of the Virus.

While research on the Omicron variant continues, the WHO recommends that all countries “take a risk-based and scientific approach and take measures that can limit their possible spread”.

Israel decided to ban foreigners from entering the country, and Morocco said it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks starting Monday – among the most drastic of a growing series of travel restrictions imposed as nations scramble to slow the spread of the variant . Scientists in several places – from Hong Kong to Europe – have confirmed its presence. The Netherlands reported 13 cases on Sunday, Australia two.

The US wants to ban travel from South Africa and seven other South African countries from Monday.

“With the Omicron variant now discovered in several regions of the world, the introduction of travel bans targeting Africa attacks global solidarity,” said Moeti. “Covid-19 is constantly taking advantage of our departments. We will only overcome the virus if we work together on solutions. “

WHO said it is expanding its support for genome sequencing in Africa so that sequencing laboratories have access to adequate human resources and test reagents to operate at full capacity. WHO also said it was ready to offer additional help and step up responses to Covid-19, including surveillance, treatment, infection prevention and community engagement in southern African countries, it said.