Skip to main content


WHO criticizes travel bans on southern African countries amid Omicron concerns

WHO claims that the new travel bans attack global solidarity

Travel ban
Travel ban | Shutterstock

November 29, 2021 7:53pm

Updated: November 29, 2021 10:17pm

The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging countries around the world not to impose flight bans on southern African countries amid concerns over the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.

WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, urged countries to follow science and international health regulations instead of imposing travel restrictions.

"Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods," Moeti said. "If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations, which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by over 190 nations."

Omicron variant cases have been spreading, with cases in Germany, Belgium, the U.K, Australia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Israel. On Monday, Canada reported the first Omicron case in North America.

As more Omicron cases are being reported, countries around the world are imposing stricter travel restrictions. Some countries, such as Israel and Japan, barred entry to all foreigners. However, most of the travel bans are being imposed only on southern African countries.

"With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity," said Moeti. "COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions."

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while there are many uncertainties about Omicron, southern Africa should not be “penalized” for their work and alerting others about the new variant.

"The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant is to be commended," said Moeti. "WHO stands with African countries which had the courage to boldly share life-saving public health information, helping protect the world against the spread of COVID-19."