WHO warns against over-reaction to Omicron

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned again over Omicron’s reaction.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern on Tuesday that some countries are launching sweeping measures against the omicron coronavirus variant that may not be necessary and that African countries could be unfairly punished.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “I understand all too well the concern of all countries to protect their citizens from a version that we do not yet fully understand.”

“But I am equally concerned that many member states are introducing blunt, blanket measures that are not evidence-based or effective in their own right, and which will only worsen inequalities.”

First reported in southern Africa a week ago, the variant has brought global alarm, led to travel restrictions, and highlighted the disparity between mass vaccination in wealthy countries and sparse vaccination in the developing world.

In remarks from a closed-door meeting posted on its website, the WHO’s Ethiopian chief urged the 194 member states to stick to “rational, proportionate” measures.

About the seriousness of Omicron and the effectiveness of the vaccines, Tedros said, there were still more questions than answers.

No deaths linked to Omicron have been reported so far, although the WHO has said it is at high risk of developing infection.

“Once again, I thank Botswana and South Africa for locating, sequencing and reporting this variant so rapidly,” Tedros said. “It deeply concerns me that those countries are now being punished by others for doing the right thing.”

‘knee-jerk reaction’

In the midst of a three-day WHO meeting of health ministers, the Namibian delegation on Tuesday expressed dismay at states imposing travel restrictions on southern Africa.

“This travel ban is a knee-jerk reaction based on politics, not science or the guidance of the WHO constitution,” it said. “Therefore we ask why is it that other states have (discovered) the variation in that individuals who have no travel history to southern Africa are exempted from this travel ban?”

Tanzania called for the immediate lifting of travel restrictions that are hurting tourism in the region, while Canada expressed gratitude for regional transparency.

Canada’s UN Ambassador in Geneva, Leslie Norton, said: “Transparent international cooperation, as demonstrated by the leadership of South African and South African scientists, who have rapidly and openly shared information on this new edition, Which is needed now more than ever.”

“Through your actions you have bought world time.”

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