Omicron variant: why the WHO calls for not closing borders?

Omicron why the WHO calls for not closing the borders

Since the appearance of the new Omicron variant, the planet is racing. Financial markets are falling; countries are closing their borders one after the other. On November 28, the WHO issued a cry of alarm and called for leaving the borders open. Why ?

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Reality check: South Africa informed theWHO (World Health Organization) of the appearance of new variant potentially dangerous on its territory from November 24. In this sense, it perfectly followed the International Health Regulations. This transparency is exemplary. THE’WHO would like to welcome this type of behavior. The transmission of information on new variants far upstream is an essential element in the fight against the virus. Indeed, the faster the information arrives, the more it is possible to limit the propagation of a variant:

  • knowing the existence of a new variant makes it possible to detect its presence and to study its mutations, its transmissibility and its dangerousness;
  • reinforce barrier measures, if necessary: ​​teleworking, wearing masks for children, closing certain places;
  • adapt vaccines to the new variant.

As soon as South Africa and Botswana were announced, several countries, including France, closed their borders to all southern African countries when only two countries were concerned. It was the European Union itself that recommended suspending all travel from seven southern African countries. Drastically, Israel has decided to close its borders to all foreign nationals.

Very quickly, cases were declared in Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Canada … In France, already eight cases of coronavirus would potentially be related to the Omicron variant. In this context, is it still useful to close the borders?

The response must be collective

In a press release dated November 28, the WHO recalls that the fight against the coronavirus must be globally coordinated to be effective. To this end, WHO has decided to step up its support to African countries, particularly in terms of genomic sequencing.

First, the closure of borders has significant deleterious economic effects for the countries concerned. Even though the risk of the omicron variant spreading has now been identified as very high, it was not yet at the time the border closures took place. The punishments currently imposed on southern Africa must not discourage other countries from reporting their new variants.

Cases are already present all over Europe

Second, border closures in an isolated and uncoordinated manner are not so effective in a globalized society. A passenger coming from South Africa can pass through India before arriving in France.

Third, cases are already present all over Europe. It is almost already too late. A border closure plan can only be effective if it is put in place very early.

In this context, and while waiting to learn more about this new variant, the barrier gestures are more relevant than ever.

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