Keep borders open despite Covid variants, WHO pleads

The World Health Organization has encouraged countries to keep their borders open, despite fears about the Omicron variant of Covid-19, as South Africa denounces global travel restrictions that it has called “unjustified.”

Avoiding shutting down borders, the WHO said, will prevent a “heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.” 

If restrictions are put in place, the organization warned, they should not be “unnecessarily invasive or intrusive.”

“Covid-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, said. 

The comments come in response to multiple countries putting forth travel restrictions after the variant was discovered in southern Africa. Along with South Africa, the US has also restricted travel to and from multiple other nations in response to the new variant. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a Sunday address that no new restrictions would be imposed “at this stage” in the country, and he urged other countries to “urgently” lift their travel restrictions, calling these “unjustified.”

The decision to not implement travel restrictions in South Africa, however, will be reviewed in a week and is contingent on more citizens getting vaccinated.

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