Even though European countries authorities have started to impose stricter entry rules for arrivals from Southern African countries due to the COVID-19 new variant, Omicron, there are doubts that this variant was circulating in Europe before than in Southern African territories.
Based on a recent report published by CNN, Dutch Health Officials previously stressed that the Omicron variant was detected in the Dutch territory a week before two flights arrived from South Africa with cases of Omicron infection, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
The virologist of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Chantal Reusken, told broadcaster NOS that at least one of the cases is believed to have been contracted in the Dutch territory.
On the other hand, on November 20, nine cases of the Omicron variant were linked to a private event in Scotland, days before South Africa announced that it detected cases of Omicron variant in its territory.
According to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, none of the individuals had a recent travel history or links to others who had been in Southern African countries.
Such cases have led to questioning the need for the travel restrictions imposed for arrivals from Southern African countries.
“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” South Africa’s Foreign Ministry pointed out in this regard.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, stressed that “putting in place travel bans that target Africans attacks global solidarity.”
Since the Omicron variant started to affect European countries, the government started to reimpose border controls and other preventive measures as a response to the current epidemiological situation.
However, WHO called on the governments to find new effective ways in order to deal with the current COVID-19 situation, instead of banning flights or imposing similar measures.
Recently, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) also supported the WHO position in calling for borders to be kept open and permit safe travel to continue.
“Closing borders will not prevent the spread of new variants. The latest variant is increasingly being detected in countries around the world. The way to keep safe is to focus on the vaccination status of individual travellers rather than placing whole countries onto red lists,” the President and CEO of WTTC, Julia Simpson, pointed out in this regard.
Up to this point, several European countries have tightened their border controls in order to prevent another upsurge in the number of COVID-19 infections.