Omicron has 'probably already spread globally', say top SA scientists as they slam travel bans

Top SA scientists slam the global travel bans, saying they were not only ineffective but did significantly more harm than good.

2021-12-04 09:47:00 AM

Top SA scientists slam the global travel bans, saying they were not only ineffective but did significantly more harm than good.

Top SA scientists slam the global travel bans, saying they were not only ineffective but did significantly more harm than good.

04 December 2021 - 07:00Travel bans were ineffective in stopping the spread of the new Covid-19 variant and cause significantly more damage than good, top SA scientists write in a comment piece published in the Lancet.Image:123RF/lightwiseThe seemingly highly transmissible Covid-19 Omicron variant has “probably already spread globally”, rendering the implementation of travel bans pointless.

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This is the view of some of SA’s top scientists, who co-authored an article published in the Lancet this week.The authors — Marc Mendelson, Francois Venter, Mosa Moshabela, Glenda Gray, Lucille Blumberg, Tulio de Oliveira and Shabir Madhi — say that the horse had long since bolted when it came to the Omicron variant, and that the travel bans implemented across the world were not only ineffective, but also did significantly more harm than good.

“By their nature, SARS-CoV-2 variants are several steps ahead of the international travel curve. Once community transmission of an airborne virus is occurring, travel restrictions have little effect; before travel bans can be imposed a variant identified in Country A has most likely already spread to Country B and, thereafter, globally,” they say. headtopics.com

Last week, SA health authorities announced the discovery of the new variant. Within a day, travel bans had already been introduced, first by the UK and then by a host of other nations.But in their Lancet piece, the six experts point out that, just two days after Omicron was announced, the variant was already sequenced in from an unvaccinated traveller returning to Belgium from Egypt, via Turkey, who became symptomatic 11 days later — with the traveller having no ties with or exposure to anyone from Southern Africa.

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“Omicron has probably already spread globally. Countries with robust surveillance and genomics capability will be able to identify cases early; others will not. The folly of restricting travel to a handful of countries at best might only buy some time before the virus variant is eventually imported. 

“Travel restrictions are unlikely to be able to stop the spread of coronaviruses unless countries are able to completely seal their borders to travellers from all nations. Predictably, soon after the UK travel ban announcement, cases of the Omicron variant were reported in Europe, the UK, North America, and, as of December 2, 2021, 25 countries in total,” they wrote in the Lancet piece.

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New COVID Cases 29 Nov 2021 - 2,273 30 Nov 2021 - 4,373 01 Dec 2021 - 8,561 02 Dec 2021 - 11,535 03 Dec 2021 - 16,055 Do you know anyone in your area who tested positive for COVID-19? Who are these people & where do they stay? COVID19 CovidVaccine You main stream media really need to communicate with each other! You cannot slam the travel bans and report the frightening growth of positive cases to get people vaccinated in the press! Which one is Not true then? 🤔🙄Who is lying? 🤔I smell a rat!

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