WHO urges governments to start easing Covid restrictions on travelers

The World Health Organization has recommended countries lift lockdowns and ease all remaining COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

The WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee issued the surprising suggestion during its tenth meeting on Wednesday.

The agency cited the rapid spread of the Omicron variant as proof that general travel bans are ineffective and that international restrictions should be lifted or relaxed.

Travel bans can “discourage transparent and expeditious reporting of Emerging Variants of Concern (VOC) in a transparent and timely manner” and “contribute to economic and social stress” for nations.

Furthermore, the report states that biosecurity measures such as “masking, testing, isolation/quarantine and vaccination must be based on risk assessments and avoid overburdening international travelers in accordance with article 40 of the IHR”.

Headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland
Headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland

Indeed, the agency urged governments not to require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 as “the only route” for international travel due to its “limited global access” and “unequal distribution”.

In a separate report, the same agency warned that the pandemic will not end when Omicron reaches all countries, because high levels of infection are likely to lead to new variants as the virus mutates.

“We’re hearing a lot of people suggest that the micron is the last variant, which ended up after that,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said during a coronavirus update in Geneva.

“And that’s not the case because this virus is circulating at a very intense level all over the world.”

In any case, several countries have already started announcing the dates when their COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted.

the french government declared on Thursday that most COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in February; however, the “vaccine pass” and requirement to wear an inner mask will remain.

Ireland’s hospitality curfew, which was enforced in December, must be lifted up next Wednesday. The government will set out the details of the restrictions lifted in a national speech on Friday night.

The UK government said on Wednesday that restrictions imposed in England last month to deal with the Omicron outbreak will be lifted from next week.

“I encourage everyone across the country to continue with all the cautious behaviors that we know help keep everyone safe,” said the UK Prime Minister.

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