International travel restrictions have done little to stop the spread of the Omicron variant and should therefore be lifted, according to an opinion issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday.
Following international consultations on Wednesday, the WHO pointed to the rapid global rise of the Omicron variant as evidence of the ineffectiveness of blanket travel bans and stated that international restrictions should be lifted or eased.
Travel restrictions can “discourage transparent and rapid reporting of emerging Variants of Concern (VOC) in a transparent and timely manner” and cause “economic and social unrest,” according to the meeting’s final statement.
According to the WHO, travel measures (such as wearing a mask, testing, isolation/quarantine, and vaccination) should be “based on risk assessments.”
Additionally, the vaccination status of travellers should not be the only condition for entry into a country given the uneven distribution of coronavirus vaccines worldwide. Countries should “consider a risk-based approach to international travel by lifting or modifying measures, such as testing and/or quarantine requirements, when appropriate, in accordance with the WHO guidance.”