UN chief criticizes 'unfair' travel restrictions due to omicron variant
Guterres says restrictions ‘not only deeply unfair and punitive -- they are ineffective’
Travel restrictions on African countries because of the new coronavirus variant omicron are “unfair,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday.
"The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available to them, nor should they be collectively punished for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world," Guterres said at a news conference at UN headquarters in New York alongside African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat.
"With a virus that is truly borderless, travel restrictions that isolate any one country or region are not only deeply unfair and punitive -- they are ineffective," said the UN chief.
Guterres reiterated his call to all governments to instead consider repeated testing for travelers along with other appropriate and effective measures.
"And this is the only way to reduce the risk of transmission while allowing for travel and economic engagement," he added.
Mahamat condemned the travel measures that have "no basis in science nor common sense."
"To condemn a country because its scientists alerted the world of the prevalence of a new variant is immoral. In the face of a common enemy, the life of a human being should be the same," he wrote on Twitter.
"It has been found that this variant was circulating in Europe before it was identified in South Africa," he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Tuesday that temporary travel bans would not prevent the spread of the omicron variant and instead all countries should include travel-related measures as part of their strategy to fight the deadly virus.