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WHO pleads for rational Omicron response

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Borders are being closed and dozens of countries impose travel.

SWITZERLAND: The WHO on Tuesday urged countries to remain calm and take “rational” measures against the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant, warning that blanket travel bans being rolled out globally will not prevent its spread.

Omicron, first reported to the World Health Organization in South Africa less than a week ago, has already appeared in many countries, with borders shutting and dozens of governments imposing travel restrictions in defiance of WHO advice.

While so much is still unknown — no deaths have been reported from Omicron and it could take weeks to know how vaccine-resistant it could prove — the new strain highlights that the global fight against COVID-19 is far from over.

Germany’s incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday voiced support for compulsory vaccinations and the UK ramped up booster jabs as even nations with high vaccination rates scramble to contain spiraling infections and prevent health services from being overwhelmed.

“We call on all member states to take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing to countries. “The global response must be calm, coordinated and coherent.”

Tedros said it was understandable that countries wanted to protect their citizens “against a variant we don’t yet fully understand”, yet the UN health agency fears blocking travel could be unfair and dissuade surveillance.

Governments, particularly in western Europe, have reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing, social-distancing measures, curfews or lockdowns — leaving businesses fearing another grim Christmas.


Saturday, December 4, 2021 – 01:00

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