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Stakeholders Ask White House to Reconsider Omicron Travel Bans

Even though a new variant of the virus causing COVID-19 is moving around the world, organizations are asking world leaders to not implement travel bans.
Although scientists have discovered a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, global travel stakeholders say extending travel restrictions is not the way to keep the industry moving.


After the United States and other nations instituted restrictions on several southern African nations, organizations around the world are asking leaders to think twice before restricting border travel.


U.S. Travel Association, World Health Organization Among Stakeholders Asking for Consideration

When the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was discovered in Africa, international governments were quick to introduce restrictions as a way of preventing the virus’ movement. According to NPR, several nations – including the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan – all announced new restrictions for travelers coming from eight nations. The restrictions affect those from Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe (among other nations), with stricter self-isolation and testing rules.


Once the new rules were announced, several organizations spoke up against them. In a statement to Politico, leaders from the World Health Organization said identification of the variant and sharing information would be the best way to prevent the spread of the viral infection.


“Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of Covid-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” WHO regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement to Politico. “If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations.”


The sentiments were echoed by the U.S. Travel Association, which has also been an opponent of travel restrictions. In their own statement, organization executive vice president of public affairs and policy Tori Emerson Barnes asked the White House to revisit travel ban in favor of vaccination campaigns.


“COVID variants are of concern, but closed borders have not prevented their presence in the United States while vaccinations have proven incredibly durable,” Emerson Barnes said in a statement. “That is why America’s travel industry is a vocal proponent of everyone getting a vaccine. With a vaccine and testing requirement in place to enter the U.S. we continue to believe that assessing an individual’s risk and health status is the best way to welcome qualified global travelers into the United States.”


Biden Calls Omicron “Cause for Concern, Not Panic”

Although the travel restrictions will remain in place for the time being, U.S. president Joe Biden noted that the new variant was a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic.” The New York Times reports in Biden’s address to the nation, the president said he was working to track the movement of the new variant, encourage more vaccinations and boosters, as well as working with the pharmaceutical companies to address the Omicron in future medicines.