The World Health Organization has recommended countries scrap lockdowns and ease all remaining COVID-19-related travel restrictions.
The WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee issued the surprising suggestion during its tenth meeting on Wednesday.
The agency cited the rapid spread of the Omicron variant as proof that blanket travel bans are inefficient and that international restrictions should be lifted or relaxed.
Travel bans may “discourage transparent and rapid reporting of emerging Variants of Concern (VOC) in a transparent and timely manner” and “contribute to the economic and social stress” of nations.
Further, the report states that biosafety measures like “masking, testing, isolation/quarantine, and vaccination, should be based on risk assessments and avoid placing the financial burden on international travelers in accordance with Article 40 of the IHR.”
In fact, the agency urged governments not to require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 as “the only pathway” for international travel due to its “limited global access” and “inequitable distribution.”
On a separate report, the same agency warned that the pandemic will not be over when Omicron reaches all countries because the high levels of infection will likely lead to new variants as the virus mutates.
“We’re hearing a lot of people suggest that omicron is the last variant, that it’s over after this,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said during a coronavirus update in Geneva.
“And that is not the case because this virus is circulating at a very intense level around the world.”
In any case, a number of countries have already started to announce the dates when their COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted.
The French government stated on Thursday that most of the COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in February; however, the “vaccine pass” and the requirement to wear an indoor mask will remain.
Ireland’s hospitality curfew, which was enforced in December, is expected to be lifted as early as next Wednesday. The government will set out the details of the restrictions lifting in a national address on Friday evening.
The UK government stated on Wednesday that the restrictions placed in England last month to address the Omicron outbreak will be lifted as of next week.
“I encourage everyone across the country to continue with all the cautious behaviors that we know help to keep each everybody safe,” said the UK Primer Minister.