In fact, travel restrictions do not solve the problem – they just postpone it, says Ragheb Ali, an epidemiologist at Cambridge University in the UK. Better testing is a much more effective measure.
“We need a balanced and balanced response. That means there are no travel restrictions, but there is testing and quarantine for people coming from countries where the omicron is circulating,” says Ali.
Travel bans could have another negative effect: cutting off South Africa from scientific supplies. It needs genomic surveillance to study the effects of omkron in real-world settings. Tulio de Oliveira, a bioinformatist at the University of Quasulo-Natal in Durban, South Africa, told Nature: “By next week, if nothing has changed, we will run out of regulating agents.”
The biggest fear that other countries will learn from the behavior of South African countries is that if you get a new look, it is better to keep it.
“They see others being punished for seeing a new form, and that would prevent them from sharing the data we want. It’s not a theoretical possibility, it’s very real,” says Ali.
Omicron will not be the last type of concern. When the next attack occurs, we need countries to share what they know as soon as possible. Blanket travel restrictions jeopardized this openness.
“Travel bans targeting Africa undermine global solidarity,” Matshediso Moti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement last week.