The African Union (AU) warned that travel and entry bans in connection with the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant limit the free movement of people and goods, imposing immediate and significant impact on countries across the continent.
The 55-member pan African bloc, in a statement, called for the urgent rescinding of travel bans placed on African countries following the detection of the Omicron variant, reports Xinhua news agency.
"Current evidence, which underscores global spread and community transmission of the Omicron variant, does not support selective travel bans imposed on Southern African countries," the statement said.
It added that penalising African countries for ensuring timely and transparent data dissemination in accordance with international health regulations acts as a disincentive for information sharing in the future, potentially posing a threat to health security on the continent and globally.
The AU stressed that recent travel and entry bans are imposing an adverse impact on the economy which will negatively affect the lives and livelihoods of populations concerned.
It further indicated that the travel ban created limited the capacity to access essential medical supplies needed to respond to the ongoing upsurge of cases.
The AU further strongly commended the effective genomic surveillance systems in South Africa and Botswana that have led to early detection of the Omicron variant on the continent, and applauded scientists and public health authorities in both member states for timely and transparent data sharing to alert the international community.
It acknowledged that more time and investigations are needed to adequately assess the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of the Omicron variant.
Meanwhile, the AU underscored the urgent need to strengthen public health and social measures to mitigate the risk of infections.
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