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Scrapping travel bans will ease financial burden on passengers, says WHO

Could international travel bans soon be scrapped?
Could international travel bans soon be scrapped?   -   Copyright  AFP
By Maeve Campbell

International travel bans should be eased or lifted altogether, according to the latest recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO has published a statement from the most recent Emergency Committee meeting this week - its tenth since the pandemic began - discussing the efficacy of blanket travel bans and whether they should be scrapped.

Travel bans “are not effective in suppressing international spread (as clearly demonstrated by the Omicron experience)” it states.

As a result, the new advice is to “lift or ease international traffic bans as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress” of some countries.

Instead of travel bans, it states there should be “travel measures” to control the spread of the virus.

“Measures such as masking, testing, isolation/quarantine and vaccination should be based on risk assessments and avoid placing the financial burden on international travellers,” writes the WHO.

The organisation has advocated for a more measured approach throughout the pandemic - cautioning against travel bans on South Africa when the Omicron variant was first detected and calling for the “profound inequity” in global vaccine access to be addressed before richer countries race to boost their populations.

Will proof of vaccination be scrapped too?

PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP or licensors
Proof of a negative COVID test could also be scrapped at borders.PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP or licensors

Showing your vaccination status or proof of a negative test at the border has been the norm for the last few months as we try to revive our travel industry.

But now the WHO is claiming that this requirement may no longer be “the only pathway” towards international travel.

It recommends a “risk-based approach” instead which would include “lifting or modifying measures, such as testing and/or quarantine requirements, when appropriate”.