It’s too late for travel bans targeting specific countries to have much of an effect on the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, experts say, particularly as it’s already in Canada.

“Unfortunately for this Omicron variant, it’s too late at this stage, I think. It’s already here,” said Julianne Piper, a research fellow and project coordinator with the Pandemics and Borders research project at Simon Fraser University.

The Omicron variant has several mutations that have scientists concerned about, according to the World Health Organization. There is some indication that it might be more transmissible and be more likely to infect someone who is vaccinated or previously infected with COVID-19, compared to previous variants, the organization said, though more study is needed to figure this out.

In response to worries about the newly discovered Omicron variant — which the WHO named a variant of concern — Canada on Friday banned travelers from seven African countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini. Other countries have enacted similar bans.

But just two days later, Ontario reported two cases of the Omicron variant in travelers in Ottawa. They had travelled from Nigeria — a country not on the banned travel list — according to officials.

Canada has now confirmed three cases in Ontario and Quebec and is investigating other possible causes.

This shows that the travel ban isn’t going to help much, experts say.

“What we’ve tended to see around targeted travel measures is that they’re limited in their effects, mostly because, as we’ve seen in the last couple of days, we’ve confirmed that this Omicron variant is already in Canada,” Piper said.

Dr. Caroline Colijn, a mathematician and epidemiologist at Simon Fraser University, said it’s “wishful thinking” to believe that the virus would stay contained in the countries targeted by the ban.

“I think we need broader measures at the border, and it should apply to all international travel,” she said in an interview Sunday.

“We can’t pick these seven countries and say, ‘Okay, for the next three weeks, this is where it’s going to be.”’

Quebec confirms 1st case of Omicron COVID-19 variant

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital, added that many of the cases present in other countries “have no connection whatsoever to southern Africa.”

So far, cases of the variant have been reported in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Hong Kong and Australia, among others.

Bogoch said that while he can appreciate that politicians “have to appear to do something,” and people want their political leaders to do something, “when we’re dealing with very transmissible respiratory viruses, having focused travel restrictions to a particular country or a particular region, it’s not usually an effective strategy.”

Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University, agrees that the “blind closures” don’t make scientific sense. The variant may have been detected in South Africa because they have good genomic surveillance infrastructure, he said.

“This has likely been circulating for some time,” Chagla said in an interview Sunday. “It doesn’t really make sense that we use rigid travel bans as a way of preventing cases, as compared to mitigating spread.”

Piper worries that South Africa is being unfairly punished for detecting the variant and its transparency in alerting the globe.

Experts in South Africa have expressed the same concerns.

Tulio de Oliveira, director of South Africa’s Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation, tweeted Monday that the country is facing a shortage of reagents needed to test for the virus — because due to travel bans, flights carrying supplies aren’t able to come in.

“South Africa really did the world a service by sharing that data and sharing that they identified a new variant, and now they’re paying quite a heavy price for that,” Piper said.

“So that’s a really unfortunate sort of punitive consequence of these reactive travel bans that probably won’t have a significant impact in terms of public health at this stage.”

She’d prefer to see Canadian provinces beef up their contact tracing and testing systems rather than have more targeted travel bans. Testing a greater number of international travelers upon arrival could also make a difference, she said.

Chagla said the situation signals an urgent need for a united, global effort to increase vaccine access across the globe.

Last Updated on November 30, 2021 by shalw

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Boy who shoved a sewing needle into his penis gets it removed through the skin in world-first op

Boy who shoved a sewing needle:  A 15-year-old boy who inserted a…

Sydney The Daily Food Feed Bianca shares recipe for a soba noodle stir-fry with The Chilli Factory’s

Sydney The Daily Food Feed Bianca shares recipe for a soba noodle…

Omicron symptoms ‘totally different’ from Delta COVID-19 variant: South African doctor

The South African doctor who identified the Omicron variant of COVID-19 says its symptoms seem milder than previous variants of the disease.

Hearing Loss More Common In Women With Osteoporosis And LBD

Age-related hearing loss affects millions of people across the world, and cases…