Vaccine equity, not travel bans needed to combat COVID-19 Omicron variant: scientists

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COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday during an address to the nation that he is “deeply disappointed” by a decision by several countries to restrict travel from a number of southern African countries over fears about the Omicron COVID-19 variant. He said the decision to restrict travel was “not informed by science,” and would undermine the ability of countries like his to recover from the pandemic – Nov 28, 2021

A British Columbia-based researcher says banning travelers from southern African countries in an effort to stop the importation of a new COVID-19 variant is an example of “wishful thinking” that could do more harm than good.

Caroline Colijn, a mathematician and epidemiologist at Simon Fraser University, says the omicron variant has already been detected in countries outside of the targeted region and it’s only a matter of time before it’s found in Canada.

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She says South Africa is to be commended for sequencing the omicron variant and for sharing its data with the rest of the world.

Colijn says she worries countries such as Canada, that responded by imposing travel bans on southern African nations, risk disincentivizing that kind of transparency in the future.

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Zain Chagla, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University, agrees that “blind closures of borders” don’t make sense.

He says the omicron variant shows it’s time for a more coordinated global response to the COVID-19 pandemic focused on ensuring every person in every country has ample access to vaccines.

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